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October 1, 2015

Updating Your Estate Plan After Divorce

When you experience a divorce, from the personal changes of being an unmarried person to the concept of co-parenting, your life changes in almost every way.  In order to accurately reflect the changes in your personal status, your estate plan should be updated as well to reflect any change in your last wishes, especially if you intend to leave your ex-spouse out of it. 

Asset Considerations

Upon divorce, some states automatically disinherit your spouse.  However, this is not always the case.  Dependent upon where you live, you will have to take control of your estate plan and remove your ex spouse’s name from your will or revocable living trust if you made that person the sole beneficiary of your estate.  Even if your ex-spouse was not the sole beneficiary, it is still important to use the help of an experienced attorney to ensure that your ex-spouse is completely disinherited.

Retirement plans and life insurance policies are not inherited the same way personal and real property are; they completely escape the probate process.  Because of that, you will have to separately change the name of beneficiary on any of those policies you own to ensure that your ex-spouse will not have any claims to your retirement accounts or life insurance payout.

While the division of marital property is likely to have been handled during the divorce, be sure that any other property that you may have willed to pass to your ex-spouse is accounted for.  Your last will and testament or revocable living trust may include sentimental bequests to your ex-spouse that you may not wish to bequest anymore. 

Guardianship of Minor Children

Generally, so long as the other parent is still alive, guardianship of minor children is not an issue.  However, if your ex-spouse is an unfit parent for some reason, you may wish to consider appointing a guardian in your will.  While this will not override any existing custody order and is not enforceable in a court of law against a parent, it could potentially weigh heavily in court and sway a judge to provide guardianship over minor children to the person you have suggested in your will.

Powers of Attorney

The vast majority of people who make fiduciary and health care powers of attorney likely choose their spouse as the person to make decisions if things take a turn for the worse healthwise.  However, there may be a likely chance that you would want to change that designation after a divorce.  Updating your power of attorney is also an opportunity to make any changes to your wishes if being unmarried has changed your perspective on any of those ever important issues.

New Executor

While this may be a more obvious move, it is important to remember to change the name of the person you’ve designated as your executor or successor trustee if that person was your spouse.

Divorce is often a draining experience that leaves any divorcee exhausted with the legal process and their own personal lives.  However, this does not decrease the importance of changing your estate plan to reflect the change in your personal status.  Whenever you are ready, allow Anderson Law Firm to help you update your estate plan after a divorce.  Our Greenville attorneys are ready to ensure that your wishes are accounted for in your estate plan, no matter how your life may change.