A divorce affects many elements of your life, from assets to child custody to living arrangements. It could even affect your income if you have to pay child support or alimony.
Going from a married person to a single one can be scary. It is a highly emotional experience that can throw you for a loop. Once your divorce has been finalized, you may just want to relax and settle into your new life.
But do not get too comfortable yet. After a divorce, there is something else you need to deal with: your estate plan. Whether you are in your 20s or in your 70s, you should have a will, trust, or other type of legal document in place in the event of your death.
If you got one during or even before your marriage, then a divorce is the perfect time to update it. Estate plans should be updated after a major life event, such as having a baby, getting married, or getting divorced. You especially want to update your estate plan after a divorce because if you do not, you could regret it. Your ex-spouse could end up with many of your assets. That is probably not what you want to happen.
Once you divorce, you probably have a lot on your mind, but you should not neglect your future plans. What do you want to happen in the event of your death? Here’s how to update your estate plan.
Forgot to update your will and your ex-spouse is still listed as a beneficiary? The good news is that many states have laws that will revoke any assets to an ex-spouse. For example, Florida law states that “any provision of a will executed by a married person that affects the spouse of that person shall become void upon the dissolution or annulment of the marriage.” The will shall be administered as if the ex-spouse is dead, which may seem harsh, but the law was created like that for a reason.
Texas goes a step further and also revokes any assets that may have gone to not just the ex-spouse but the ex-spouse’s family as well. This means that your former stepchildren will not be able to inherit from you. If you had alternative beneficiaries listed in your will, the assets would have gone to them instead.
Still, it is never a good idea to rely on state laws. Keep in mind that if you were to die during the divorce process, your soon to be ex-spouse would still be able to take possession of your assets, so the sooner you update your estate plan, the better.
A divorce can also mean a change in assets. You may gain some assets, you may lose some. Be sure to update your will accordingly.
Keep in mind that some assets pass outside of a will. Some examples include life insurance and retirement accounts. You cannot update these in your will, so be sure to follow the proper protocols for making updates if you do not want your ex to get their hands on these accounts.
Update the Executor
If your ex-spouse was named as the executor of your will, you may want to change that unless you want your ex handling your personal affairs. You can change it to an adult child, sibling, or even a close friend.
Update Powers of Attorney
You may also need to update powers of attorney, which are documents that give someone authority to act for you if you ever become incapacitated and cannot make decisions on your own. You should have two powers of attorney: one for healthcare decisions) and one for financial matters. More than likely, you may have given your ex-spouse authority to make these decisions on your behalf, so revoke them and get new documents.
How to Change Your Will
If you have a will already, you can update it through an amendment or by writing an entirely new will. The easiest option will likely be to write a new will.
If you do write a new will, you can revoke the old one by physically tearing it up. This is the easiest way. You can also state in the new will that all prior wills are revoked. The updated will’s newer date will prove that it is more recent and supersedes the previous will. It is possible to update your will on your own. You should be able to find sample wills online that you can use to follow a standard format. You can also purchase a software package to tailor a will to your specific situation.
It is also a good idea to consult with an estate planning attorney. An attorney can help address any concerns you may have specific to your divorce. They can also help you meet your divorce obligations, such as designating an asset to a specific individual or dividing certain assets, such as retirement or investment accounts. An attorney can also recommend other legal documents specific to your needs, such as living trusts, special needs trusts, and funeral and burial instructions.
Seek Legal Help
A divorce does not automatically make changes to an estate plan. If you need to make changes to assets and beneficiaries, you must do so in a separate action when your divorce is finalized.
There is a lot going on in a divorce. A lot of changes need to happen. Broward County divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can help you move forward. Schedule a consultation with our office today by filling out the online form or calling (954) 398-5712.