How Can Divorce Affect Your Estate Plan?

How Can Divorce Affect Your Estate Plan?

You’ve spent years carefully crafting your estate plan. You’ve updated your will, designated beneficiaries, and made sure all your assets are properly titled. But what happens if you divorce? A divorce can have a major impact on your estate plan, and it’s important to understand the potential implications before you make any decisions.

Of course, every divorce is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. If you’re currently going through a divorce, or if you’re considering one in the future, it’s important to speak with a qualified divorce attorney to discuss how it could affect your estate plan. With careful planning, you can minimize the impact of the divorce on your assets and ensure that your estate plan reflects your current wishes.

What Happens to Your Estate Plan After a Divorce?

Most states in America have a default revocation statute. In Florida, for instance, once your divorce is final, it automatically bars your ex-spouse from being the personal representative in your estate plan. This means that if you get divorced, your will is invalidated and your spouse will no longer be entitled to any of your assets. However, divorce attorneys always recommend that you update your will and beneficiary designations to reflect your new status. If you don’t, your ex-spouse could still inherit your assets, even if you don’t want them to.

Another way divorce can affect your estate plan is if you have joint accounts with your spouse. If you have a joint account, both you and your spouse are liable for the debt in the account. This means that if you divorce, your creditors can come after either of you for the debt. To protect yourself, you should close any joint accounts that you have with your spouse and open new individual accounts.

Divorce can also affect your estate plan if you have named your spouse as a beneficiary on insurance policies or retirement accounts. If you divorce, your spouse will no longer  be entitled to the death benefit from the policy or the money in the retirement account. To make sure your ex-spouse does not get any of your assets, you should update the beneficiary information on all of your insurance policies and retirement accounts.

With proper planning and an experienced Florida divorce attorney to guide you, you can protect the future of your assets and prevent them from falling into unintended hands. 

Steps To Take After A Divorce

Once the judge ruling on your divorce gives a final decree, it’s time to make changes to your estate plan. It is always best to act quickly and get it out of your way as soon as possible. Here are some critical steps you will want to take to secure your property. 

Revoke Your Previous Testament

The first step you want to take in securing your property after a divorce is to revoke the last will and testament you made. Getting rid of your testament may be as simple as shredding it up or contacting your lawyer (if you wrote one with them). 

Update Your Beneficiary Designation

You should know that the revocation statute does not affect all your assets. For instance, your retirement plans, such as your 401Ks, are not affected by the statute. If you have life insurance, trust funds, or assets in the bank, a divorce decree will not change anything. 

Your spouse is probably listed as a beneficiary on your assets and insurance policies. If so, you will need to change that. You can update your beneficiary designation with your bank and insurance company once your divorce is final to protect all your assets. 

You will need to sign new documents that indicate your new beneficiaries and what your allocation of the property will be. Be sure to consult your divorce attorneys on the best way to approach this since the beneficiary designation may vary across states, insurance companies, and other financial institutions.

Appoint A New Powers Of Attorney

Whether your spouse is your medical or financial power of attorney, you must revoke that as soon as possible. Fortunately, Florida divorce laws automatically revoke a spouse’s power of attorney as soon as you file for a divorce or an annulment of your marriage.

 However, it is wise to make a deliberate step in changing the documents and conferring  power of attorney to someone you trust. This is because the law allows your ex-spouse to be your power of attorney if you get incapacitated and there is no other acting power of attorney.

Things to Include In Your New Will

If you have never written a will, now is the time to do so. Writing a will isn’t as tough as you might think. Depending on the extent of your estate, you can either draft one yourself or hire a lawyer to help you out

A good starting point would be to seek the guidance of your Florida divorce attorney on how to proceed. However, if you choose to draft one yourself, here are three things you want to include in your will.

Property Allocation

The primary purpose of your will is to state your desired beneficiaries. Before your divorce, you probably wanted all your property to go to your spouse if you died. That has probably changed now that you are no longer together. 

Different states have various laws revolving around divorce and estate plans. In most states, a divorce automatically revokes your spouse’s right to your property. What’s more, it also revokes the right of any of your spouse’s relatives to your property. 

It is best to revise your will as soon as you get the final decree for your divorce. This way, you can ensure that your children or any other beneficiaries get your property as you wish.

Your Will Executor 

You might have previously listed your spouse as your testament’s executor or personal representative. But now that you are no longer together, you may want to get another person to handle your estate. If this is the case, be sure to change it in your new will. 

Your executor should typically be your partner or your adult child. However, you can make an exception and appoint a friend you trust. You can also appoint a trustee company to handle the will on your behalf. If you choose a friend or your child, the executor must also be a beneficiary of your will.

Your Children’s Legal Guardian

If you are entrusted with child custody after a divorce, you must ensure that your children get the proper care they need. So do not hesitate to find a responsible and caring guardian to watch over them when you die. 

If you die, your spouse may have automatic access to your children. In cases where your ex-spouse threatens your children’s safety and well-being, you definitely want to assign a better person to take care of them. 

If you do not trust your ex with your children’s upbringing, you can state that in your will. The court would need you to give substantial reasons for your move to appoint a legal guardian for your children. Be sure to make your reasons as clear as they can be.

How Soon Can You Change Your Estate Plans?

While you are legally married to your spouse until the final decree is given, you can make minor changes in preparation for your new estate plans. For instance, you can revoke your spouse’s power of attorney before the divorce is completed. You can also change your will if you wish. However, it would help if you had in mind that the law prohibits you from hiding your assets and property while in the process of a divorce. 

To avoid any legal complications that may come with altering your estate plans, you may want to speak to your divorce attorney before making any substantial changes to your plan. Once you chart the best way forward, your attorney can guide you on what documents you need to update and the timeframe to get those changes into place.

Secure Your Estate With Our Help

Divorce is never easy, as we’ve seen firsthand. You may be going through a divorce or perhaps a custody struggle with your spouse. If you still have feelings for your ex-spouse, it may be difficult for you to make the best decision for your financial well-being. That is why you need the help of our experienced and qualified divorce attorney.

Griffin Family Law, PLLC is dedicated to serving you and your family’s needs. Our divorce lawyer is unbiased and empathetic, and will do everything to protect your interests during the divorce process. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions regarding how a divorce can impact your estate planning.

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SCHEDULE A FREE CONSULTATION – Call (904) 372-9708 or fill out the form to schedule your free initial consultation to learn more about how we can help and to discuss your options with an experienced lawyer.