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How Divorce Affects Estate Plans

After the turmoil of a divorce, the last thing you probably want to do is meet with another attorney, but this major life change will almost certainly mean you need to make plans to your existing estate plan.   Here are four reasons why:

  1. Your ex-spouse may still be a beneficiary of your estate plan and financial accounts and/or be in charge of your estate upon your incapacity or death. Most married people designate their spouse as the primary beneficiary of their will or trust, their retirement account, and their life insurance policies. A spouse is also usually named as the first person to make financial and health decisions for them if the other is incapacitated. Divorce does not automatically nullify these gifts or designations.
  1. Divorce has a dramatic effect on your financial holdings and taxes. Estate planning (such as the creation or revision of an existing trust) may be able to help reduce any new tax liabilities you are facing.  An estate plan can be key to structuring your post-divorce assets, so consider making necessary changes as soon as possible after a divorce is finalized. Even if you have been divorced for years, planning is vital to address how alimony or child support payments may impact your estate.
  1. The division of assets in your divorce may conflict with your original intent regarding gifts in your existing estate plan. For example, what if your plan leaves a house to your daughter and a financial account of similar value to your son? If you no longer own the house, you may have accidentally disinherited your daughter. Similarly, you had a joint estate plan, you and your ex-spouse may have designated gifts to extended families or charities that no longer reflect your wishes. If your priorities have changed, you can reflect that through updates to your will or trust.
  1. You deserve to choose who will speak for you if you cannot speak for yourself. Sometimes married people can slide by without financial powers of attorney and health care directives because accounts are owned jointly, and doctors may assume a spouse is authorized to act on your behalf. If you are living independently, you must be proactive in designating your emergency decision-makers. Failure to nominate someone can delay you from getting assistance when you need it most, create conflict among family members who disagree about who should act and how, and could result in an adult guardianship proceeding.

Whether you need to update your existing documents or create a new plan for the first time, estate planning is a key part of becoming empowered to move into the next stage of your life. It is easy to think of divorce as cutting ties with your past, but you will benefit the most if you take the time to also plan for your future. The compassionate attorneys at Littleton Legal are here to make sure you can move forward with an estate plan that will give you the peace of mind that you are prepared for the future.  Call us today at (918) 608-1836 or schedule an appointment online.

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