If you have made the difficult decision to end your marriage, the legal process of divorce that follows will undoubtedly be time-consuming and emotionally exhausting. As such, it can be very easy to overlook the numerous practical steps that should be taken after a divorce. For example, the Hartford estate planning lawyers at Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates, P.C. point out five estate planning documents that usually need to be updated following a divorce.
Updating Your Estate Plan as a Matter of Routine
If you have a comprehensive estate plan in place you are ahead of the majority of Americans. While that is certainly good news for you and your loved ones, do not make the common mistake of forgetting about your plan once it is in place. Failing to update your estate plan can be more detrimental to the disposition of your estate after your death than not creating a plan in the first place. Both can dramatically increase the likelihood of litigation during the probate of your estate; however, an outdated plan can also result in valuable estate assets ending up in the hands of unintended beneficiaries. Along with routine reviews, certain life events also call for an update of your estate plan to prevent unintended consequences. A divorce is one of the most common of those life events that should prompt a review and revision of your estate plan.
Why Is a Post-Divorce Update So Important?
As a married couple, you likely created estate plans that reflect your marital status. Your spouse, for example, is likely the beneficiary of many of your assets and vice versa. In addition, you probably hold some assets jointly. Some married couples have estate plans that are even more intertwined. You may also have appointed your spouse to important fiduciary and/or decision-making positions within your estate plan. All of that makes sense while you are married, particularly if you have children together; however, if you decide to end the marriage the inter-connected nature of your estate plans can present a problem going post-divorce. After all, you probably don’t want your now ex-spouse to be the beneficiary of your life insurance policy (unless it is as the Trustee for your minor children) nor do you want him/her to inherit your estate assets. Always consult with your estate planning attorney before actually making any changes to your estate plan that are the result of a divorce because the divorce laws in your state may require you to maintain the status quo until the divorce is final.
5 Documents to Update
The size and complexity of your estate plan may mean that you need to make a number of additional changes to your estate plan; however, the following five documents commonly need to be updated following a divorce:
- Last Will and Testament – along with removing your spouse as a beneficiary under the provisions of your Will, you may also need to remove him/her as the Executor of your estate and appoint someone new to the position.
- Trust agreement – a trust is a very popular addition to the average estate plan. If your plan includes a trust, and you appointed your spouse to be the Trustee of the trust, you may need to amend the trust agreement to appoint a new Trustee.
- Life insurance policies— your spouse is also likely the primary beneficiary of your life insurance policies. Before changing this, make sure that your divorce decree does not require you to continue to maintain life insurance that names your spouse as the beneficiary as is frequently the case when minor children are involved.
- Power of Attorney – at some point you may have executed a Power of Attorney naming your spouse as your Agent. You will want to terminate the POA as soon as possible.
- Advanced directive – if you have an advance directive in place you probably named your spouse as your Agent, giving him/her the legal authority to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to make them at some point. Executing a new one naming someone else as your Agent should resolve this problem.
Contact Hartford Estate Planning Lawyers
For more information, please join us for a FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about updating your estate plan after a divorce, contact the experienced Hartford estate planning lawyers at Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates, P.C. by calling (860) 548-1000 to schedule an appointment.