When you were married, you understood the importance of an estate plan, but is it still as important now that you’re divorced? Many feel the need for an estate plan lessens outside of marriage, but estate planning is actually just as important after divorce as it was during the marriage. It is a critical tool providing the opportunity to choose how your assets are handled and distributed after you are gone. It also allows you to choose who will be in charge of making sure your final wishes are known and carried out.
Before the divorce, you probably had discussions with your ex about all the specifics included in the estate plan:
Distribution of Assets
Nomination of an Executor
Power of Attorney Assignments
Designating Wishes in Regards to Health Care and End of Life Decisions
A lot of planning went into the estate plan that was in place prior to your divorce, but all the joint planning, the compromise involved make the decision making the estate plan was built on no longer applicable. In most cases, a spouse is made the primary beneficiary of assets as well as the primary decision maker for any serious illnesses or death. Once divorced, even if you are one of the lucky ones who divorced under the best of circumstances, there will likely be major changes necessary to bring the estate plan up to date and in line with your current wishes. It may be the last thing on your mind, but estate planning should actually be one of the first things addressed after a divorce to ensure that wishes for the estate and assets are accurate.
First, you should change the beneficiaries listed on all accounts and life insurance policies unless you are directed otherwise by your divorce decree.
Second, revoke or revise your will or trust if you already have one in place. Any will or trust already in place was most likely based off a partnership with your ex that no longer exists.
Third, consult with an experienced and knowledgeable estate planning attorney. There may be state specific laws regarding estate planning after divorce that apply in your situation (i.e. gifts left to your ex ay be revoked as well as gifts made to anyone related to the former spouse by blood, adoption or marriage). This means that in certain situations, you will need to expressly state that you would like to leave something to an individual in your revised will. For instance, if you want to leave something to your ex’s child, you would need to include a statement to that effect. Additional complications arise in situations where the divorce was never actually finalized.
Fourth, update a designated custodian of minor children. Generally, a minor would be placed in the care of their other parent unless that parent was declared unfit or unable to care for the child, but in some circumstances, it would be appropriate to designate another person to provide care for the minor child, i.e. both parents pre-deceasing a child. The change in dynamics that follow divorce often calls for an update to the designation of custodian of minor children.
Estate planning after divorce is not only an excellent recommendation – it is essential. The only way you can be sure that your wishes are known and adhered to is to take the time to review your estate plan and edit it as necessary. If you need assistance moving forward and creating a new path for yourself post-divorce by putting those plans in writing, contact an experienced Arizona estate planning attorney at SHERIDAN LARSON, PLLC today.
Information Not Legal Advice. This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.