If you are in the process of getting a divorce or have recently finalized your divorce, it’s probably time to review your estate plan and last will. After all, you likely drafted your will when you intended to leave everything to your spouse. All of your decisions from assigning personal possessions to naming a guardian for your children likely reflect your position as a spouse. Reviewing your last will and estate plan can help you ensure a legacy that reflects your life.
There are likely several documents within your estate plan that you will need to update. You should make an attempt to review and update them every few years, anyway, but a divorce is one of several life events that warrants taking action in regard to your estate plan.
Look at your medical directives and power of attorney
Far too many people overlook their living will when they update their estate plan. That could leave your family in a complicated situation, especially if the divorce was acrimonious. It is common for people to authorize a spouse to make critical financial and medical decisions in the event of incapacitation. If you have separate bank accounts, you may name your spouse in a power of attorney document to handle important household matters.
You should review everything to ensure that neither your ex nor someone else from her side of the family is named in any of these critical documents. You want to ensure that the people with the authority to access your financial accounts and make medical decisions when you cannot will treat that responsibility with respect. It’s also likely a good time to see if your feelings about your medical preferences and directives may have changed.
Update any trusts and plan to find new trustees if necessary
If you have any kind of trust, from a special needs trust to a living trust, reviewing the beneficiaries and trustees is important. In some cases, like a special needs trust to care for your shared child, having your former spouse as trustee could prove to be a good decision. In many other situations, however, you likely don’t want your former spouse or any of his or her relatives exerting control over your trusts when you are gone.
It may feel morbid to have to review all of your plans for the end of your life or a worst case scenario, but doing so can help protect your financial future and your legacy. Any time your family changes in a substantial way, including marriage, the birth of a child or divorce, you may need to consider revisions or changes to your last will and overall estate plan.