What You Should Know about Separating Estate Plans after a Divorce

There are many legal matters toattend to following a divorce, and long-term planning is often not a toppriority. However, you should avoid putting off separating your estateplanning documents. It is necessary to update any relevant estate planningmaterials that activate in the event of your death once your divorce isfinalized. This way, your former spouse will not receive assets from yourestate.

What Are the Consequences of Failingto Change Your Estate Plan?

If you do not update your estateplan after a divorce, it could lead to a large percentage of your assets goingto your former spouse or their family. This can occur even if it was not yourintention if you do not make your wishes known by changing your estate planningdocuments. Most states do not allow someone’s former spouse to inherit propertyunder a will. However, other estate planning tools can remain in effect.

One Example of Post-Divorce Legal Trouble

One New York woman died in 2010after she and her husband divorced several years earlier. Her original willstated that her husband was to receive the home and all other assets, and shenamed her father-in-law as the second beneficiary to the home. NewYork law automatically stopped the former husband from inheriting under herwill, but her father-in-law’s claim to the house remained valid even after thedivorce.

The woman’s children claimed that anew will was created to remove the father-in-law’s claim to the estate, but herfamily members were not able to find it. The result was that the court ruled infavor of the father-in-law as the rightful beneficiary to the estate. Thewoman’s family must now appeal the decision.

What Should You Do after a Divorce?

The main thing to remember from thiscase is to make sure you update your estate plans with a probate attorney afterthe divorce. You might have to draft a new will and redo any other documents relatedto your wishes. Your estate planning lawyer and other family members must alsobe given a copy of the new materials. You and your former spouse should alsofind new estate planning lawyers to avoid any conflicts of interest.

Another important consideration isnaming new proxies for your power of attorney, and any otherdocuments that give your former spouse the power to make decisions on yourbehalf. New proxy documents you create must also state that the previousdocuments are no longer valid to avoid confusion.

Last of all, update any and allaccounts that have a beneficiary designation. These can be bank accounts,trusts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and annuities. Frequentlythese kinds of accounts are overlooked in the wake of a divorce. Assets held inthem pass directly to the beneficiary, often contradicting the will and estateplanning documents. Ensuring your wishes are followed can be as simple asfilling out a new beneficiary form for the account in question.

For advice about how to separateyour assets following a divorce, contact Queens probate lawyer Richard CarySpivack, and take control of your estate plan today.