When you get divorced, you have a lot going on. You might be working on a parenting plan with your ex, or trying to decide if you’re going to sell the house (or if one of you will buy the other out) – there is quite a bit to do. And after those plans are set, and you’ve opened new credit cards and divvied up the retirement accounts, it can be easy to forget all about the estate plan you created while you were still married. After all, the divorce didn’t kill you, so why worry about the Will, right?
In reality, this is the perfect time to start thinking about that Will, and any documents you put in place to protect your family or your business. Now that everything has been divided, you know exactly how much money you have, which stocks or assets you’ve retained, and what kind of future you can ensure for your children or your company. Making changes to your estate plan after a divorce is one of the first steps you should take to ensure that your wishes are still reflected.
Updating important information
In my practice, I work with folks who need family law and estate planning guidance every day. Here’s what you should revisit once your divorce is final:
- Your Will. Your Will does more than say who gets what when you pass away; it also gives clear instructions to your next of kin or to your appointed representative in the event that you become incapacitated. And it’s more than likely that your former Will left most of your estate to your spouse. It’s time to change that! It’s also time to possibly change your life insurance beneficiary.
- Trusts. Perhaps you’ve set money aside in trust for your children, your business or your spouse. That money will still go to the same places unless you change your trust(s) to reflect your new circumstances.
- Your durable power of attorney. The PoA is different than the estate representative. It’s not that you can’t pick the same person for both roles – you can. Just make sure that the person you choose is going to follow your plans and make decisions that are in line with your wishes. Whomever is designated as your power of attorney is likely to have permission to act on your behalf. You want to make sure the person you chose will do so in your best interests.
- Your healthcare power of attorney. If you, like so many people, named your spouse to make healthcare decisions for you, now is the time to change that. There are couples who divorce amicably and keep one another on these documents, thinking it wouldn’t be an issue – and then one of them gets remarried and forgets all about the healthcare PoA. Next thing you know, that person becomes incapacitated, and the whole thing becomes a battle between the spouses.
- Anything related to charitable giving. Most people set up trusts when they want their favorite charities to continue to receive support, but not always. Regardless of what documentation you have, make sure that it is reflective of the support you want to give, not what was planned before you divorced. You may be less financially able to give the same amount, or perhaps you wish to support a separate charity altogether. Make sure this documentation is clear.
Family law and estate planning advice go together like baseball and apple pie: if you need counsel in one area, it could affect the other. As a Maryville divorce attorney, I’ve helped countless clients sort through their estate plans and update their documentation to reflect not only their new lives, but their plans for the future as well. If you haven’t changed your Will yet, now’s the time to do it. Please contact my law firm, Shepherd and Associates, P.C. by filling out this contact form or by calling 865.225.9655.