As an Orange County will and trust lawyer, I know that estate planning offers legal protection for families and individuals through all of life’s transitions. Using tools such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives, estate planning helps individuals protect their wishes, safeguard their assets, and ensure provision and care for their loved ones following their death or incapacity.
What Does My Estate Plan Have to Do with My Divorce?
Your estate plan can be impacted greatly if it’s not updated after a divorce. For example, if your ex-spouse has been named as a beneficiary on your life insurance policy, he or she may still be able to collect the proceeds if you suddenly pass away without updating your documents. Your ex-spouse may also retain authority roles as your power of attorney or healthcare agent unless you revoke such power. As a single adult, you must also name the people you now want to act on your behalf or manage your affairs in an emergency once the role is no longer filled by your ex-spouse.
Won’t a Divorce Automatically Stop My Ex-Spouse from Having Such Power?
Again, not necessarily. In many states, a divorce does not nullify the beneficiaries named on accounts, nor will it prevent an ex-spouse from serving in authority roles where he or she may retain the ability to make life or death medical decisions or manage the ex-spouse’s money during incapacity. That is why you must update your documents after a divorce to be certain that your ex no longer has this power.
What Documents Should I Update?
While everyone’s estate plan is different, the following are the most common documents that should be updated after a divorce:
- Power of Attorney
- Healthcare Directive
- Beneficiary Designations on Life Insurance Policies
- Beneficiary Designations on Retirement Plans
- Beneficiaries on any accounts with Transfer on Death Provisions
Each state has laws that dictate when documents can be updated or altered as you move through the divorce proceedings. It’s important to speak with an experienced Orange County will and trust lawyer before you make any changes, as any unapproved transfers or changes to your documents could be considered fraudulent. If you need help getting started, we are here to assist you with your planning. Contact our office by calling (949) 260-1400 to schedule an appointment.