How Will Divorce Change My Estate Plans?
If you and your spouse drafted estate plans during your marriage, those plans will almost certainly need to be altered. Hopefully you have an attorney well-versed in estate planning law to assist you. What will you need to change in these documents?
Health Care Power of Attorney
You most likely had each other listed in the position of Health Care Power of Attorney. This person would make all important decisions regarding your health care in the event of an accident, a serious illness, or anything else that would prevent you from communicating your own health care preferences.
In some states, the finalized divorce automatically voids the spouses’ designation as Health Care Power of Attorney. That would leave you with no agent, immediately upon the resolution of your divorce. Having no agent in place is a dangerous position to be in, potentially. Definitely make sure you have alternative health care agents listed, as those people could fill the role once your spouse formally becomes your ex.
The spouse-as-beneficiary designation can become immediately void upon divorce as well. Be sure to look at your life insurance policies, as well as employee benefit plans, and any account marked payable-on-death. The beneficiary designation is a central aspect of retirement accounts as well.
If you do not assign a new beneficiary to replace your spouse in all of these matters, then the state has the power to decide who should benefit from your policies. You have to assign a new beneficiary in each situation to make sure your benefits are collected by the people you would want to inherit them.
Child Support Considerations
In some divorce decrees, it is stated that each spouse must maintain a valid life insurance policy. This is done to fulfill obligations for child support. So that the child is protected in the event of any serious injury, illness, or death happening to either parent, the life insurance policy for each must designate the other spouse as the beneficiary.
If your former spouse will be voided as beneficiary on your life insurance policy, or vice-versa, then you must contact your life insurance providers and make sure that you re-affirm each other as beneficiaries following the divorce.
Revocable Trusts and Wills
You may have your spouse listed as the only heir in your Will. If this is so, then you may want to consider revising this Will to include some other heirs as well – even if you have the full intention of bequeathing assets to your former spouse after the divorce.
If you have specific possessions, objects, or assets in your Will being bequeathed to your spouse, you may want to consider changing those designations.
If you are parents, you likely have your former spouse listed as the guardian for your minor child. If you wish, you can add alternative guardians to your Will as well. It may be challenging to remove the listing of your former spouse as designated guardian in the event of your death or incapacitation, but having alternative guardians assigned can be to your benefit. (And to the benefit of your children.)
Power of Attorney
Power of Attorney changes after divorce. If your spouse is listed as having Power of Attorney, that will go away once the divorce is finalized. Adding alternatives for this position is a wise move.
Can I Disinherit My Spouse?
The short answer is yes. However, bear in mind that any disinheriting cannot happen until after the divorce is settled and final. After your divorce is final, you and your attorney can talk about other ways in which you can make sure your former spouse Is not inheriting any of your estate.