Divorce can be a difficult time for spouses and children, and it’s understandable that you would want to move on with your life as soon as possible. However, there is one more vital step to dissolving your life as a married couple: making changes in your estate plan. No matter how long it has been since the documents were created, a failure to re-examine your estate plan when you get divorced can cause serious problems later.
The Importance of Updating an Estate Plan After a Divorce
It is vital that you wait until your divorce is complete before making any changes to your estate plan. The filing of a divorce complaint typically places a hold on all marital assets to prevent the transfer, sale, or destruction of shared property. The judge in your case will likely look unfavorably on any attempt to alter the plan, even if you are just trying to protect yourself or your children.
As soon as the divorce has been finalized, it is vital that you consult with an estate planning attorney to:
- Name a new executor. If you have left your former spouse in charge of your estate through your will, you may want to remove them. If you don’t choose a new executor, your former spouse will have influence over your beneficiaries and control your assets after your death. Similarly, you will want to name an alternative successor trustee if your estate plan includes a trust.
- Consider beneficiary designations. Life insurance policies, retirement accounts, or 401k plans may be cashed out and divided between spouses during a divorce. Any account that is not affected by the divorce should remain solely in your name, and will likely need a different beneficiary—unless you want your former spouse to inherit the balance of the account.
- Update your health care proxy. Spouses often trust one another to make healthcare decisions on each other’s behalf. If you are seriously injured a year after the divorce and have not updated your choice of health care proxy, your former spouse will be able to make health care decisions for you.
- Change powers of attorney. If your spouse has been granted financial power of attorney, they retain access to your personal assets if you become incapacitated.
We have seen the tragedies that can happen when documents do not take each person’s unique needs and circumstances into account. At Landskind & Ricaforte Law Group, P.C., we take a practical approach to difficult problems, allowing you to make decisions with confidence. If you have questions about your future, fill out our quick contact form or call us to learn how we can help you with a custom-made estate plan.