Whether you have just finalized your divorce, or you’ve been divorced for some time, it's important to review and update your estate planning documents to reflect your new circumstances and ensure your wishes are properly addressed. An attorney experienced in both family law and estate planning can help. Here are some key considerations for estate planning after divorce:
Update your will: Review your existing will and make necessary changes. You may need to remove your ex-spouse as a beneficiary, designate new beneficiaries, appoint a new executor, and consider the guardianship of minor children if applicable.
Revise your healthcare directives: Review and update your healthcare directive to reflect your current wishes regarding medical decisions and end-of-life care. Be sure to appoint someone you trust as your healthcare agent.
Modify your power of attorney: If you previously granted your ex-spouse power of attorney, you will likely want to revoke that authority and designate a new person to handle your financial and legal affairs in case you become incapacitated.
Update beneficiary designations: Review and update the beneficiaries on your life insurance policies, retirement accounts (such as 401(k) or IRAs), and other payable-on-death accounts. Consider naming new beneficiaries in accordance with your post-divorce wishes.
Review asset ownership: Take stock of your assets and ensure they are titled correctly. Update property deeds, titles, and ownership documents to reflect your new circumstances and any division of property stipulated in your divorce settlement.
Review and update your life insurance: Evaluate your life insurance coverage and consider adjusting the beneficiaries, especially if your ex-spouse was previously designated as the recipient. You may also want to consider updating the coverage amount based on your current needs.
Keep in mind that even though you may already have a will in place that outlines your wishes, any beneficiaries listed on financial accounts will override the directives in your will. It is extremely important to take stock of all of your accounts and know who the beneficiaries are so that you can make any necessary changes. If you have put in the work to establish an estate plan after your divorce but you then forget to update your beneficiary designations on your retirement plan, for example, and your ex-spouse is still listed as the primary beneficiary, that money will pay to your ex-spouse upon your passing unless you remove him or her as a beneficiary on the retirement paperwork.
Review your children's needs: If you have minor children, review your guardianship designation and make any necessary changes. Additionally, consider establishing a trust or setting up provisions in your will to protect and manage their inheritance until they reach a certain age or milestone.
Consult with an attorney: It's highly recommended to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney who can guide you through the process, review your documents, and ensure your estate plan aligns with your post-divorce wishes and the applicable laws in your jurisdiction.
Remember, estate planning is highly individualized, and the specifics of your situation may require additional or different steps. Working with a qualified attorney will help you navigate the complexities and ensure your estate plan reflects your current needs and desires.