Divorces are hard, and the process can easily overwhelm anyone getting divorced. But it’s important to remember during this difficult time that you will definitely need to speak to your estate planning lawyer about how you will need to change your plan after you finalize your divorce.
Just as with any other significant change in your life, you will need to revise your estate plan soon after you get divorced. You created a plan that matched to your needs as a married person, and now that you are single or soon-to-be single, you will need to create a new plan that addresses your needs as a newly divorced person. Here are three issues you should consider.
Your Medical Directives
When married couples in California make advance directives, they typically choose their spouses to act as their health care representatives. Your representative is responsible for making your health care decisions should you become incapacitated and need someone else to make decisions for you. Representatives can communicate with your doctors, review your medical records, and make decisions that they believe are in your best interests.
Now that you are divorced you will probably not want to keep your spouse as your health care representative. So, you’ll have to make a new directive and choose someone else to represent your interests should you one day lose your ability to make choices.
Your Will or Trust
Once you get married in California, you and your spouse earned the right to automatically inherit from each other. Once your divorce takes effect this inheritance right is terminated.
If you created your last will and testament or living trust while you were married you likely took this automatic inheritance right into consideration. Now that you are divorced, you will have to create a new will or trust that reflects your new circumstances.
Married couples in California who created an estate plan typically create a joint estate plan.
For example, you and your spouse probably created a plan assuming that most of your property was owned by both of you as a married couple. Now that you have gone through a divorce, the divorce decree divided your marital property between you. Instead of owning joint property, both of you now own individual property.
So, because your old plan assumed that much of your property was owned jointly, your new plan will have to address how you want to handle your property now that you own it as an individual. Just as you did with your old plan, you will have to decide what you want to accomplish with your new plan in light of your divorce and your new circumstances as a single person.
The best way to create an appropriate and comprehensive plan that reflect your new circumstances is to work with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney.