Divorce creates need for changes in estate plans

| Jul 31, 2019 | Firm News

If you are divorcing your spouse, there will be a lot of changes on your horizon. Many may be thrust upon you unwillingly, but others will come about because of actions that you initiate.

One change that you may need to make is to alter your estate plan documents when you divorce. If you are like most people, your estate planning documents may name your spouse as beneficiary on your pension and other important documents.

Don’t drag your feet on making changes

None of us have a lease on life. You could step off the curb tomorrow and get mowed down by a bus. If under your current estate plan, your soon-to-be ex will inherit everything, that might certainly not have been your intent.

The court could limit the changes you make

In some circumstances, the courts could order that you leave some documents intact. This might be the case if you were ordered to pay spousal support and/or to leave your listed spouse or children as beneficiaries for your retirement pension. If you want to change it, it might be possible to purchase a life insurance policy that names them as beneficiaries in lieu of the IRA or other pension documents.

Don’t forget to change your powers of attorney

Spouses often appoint each other as power of attorney in the event they become incapacitated. But if the mere idea of the person whom you are divorcing having that level of control over you and your affairs causes you to break into a cold sweat, you need to make these changes without delay.

Change your health care proxy, too

Would you really want the person with whom you’re at swords points in a divorce to determine your level of care after an incapacitating injury? This person could potentially be the one to dictate whether or not you are taken off of life support, so make the necessary changes that allow you to once again feel secure.

What about guardianship of the kids?

Suppose you and your husband decided that in the event that the two of you were killed in an accident, his childless older sister would be appointed guardian of your minor children. She and her husband both earn a good living but she had never been able to conceive and clearly loves your kids.

However, since you filed for divorce, she has begun taking quite a hard line against you and you are worried that her stance could tarnish the children’s memory of you should she wind up rearing them. Can you change it?

Here’s where it becomes a bit of a sticky wicket. You and your ex will both need to agree to changes of guardianship. Your divorce attorney might successfully argue to the court that the potential for your memory to be tainted by the guardian is too great to leave it as is.

In the midst of divorce, probably the last thought you have is on estate planning flaws, but a thorough divorce attorney should be prepared to address all aspects of a client’s pending divorce.