Often, significant life events warrant updating your estate plan. This can be especially true after a divorce. Because the value of your estate, your designated beneficiaries, and powers of attorney might change, it’s important to consider revisions to your will and trust after a divorce.
How to Update Your Outdated Will and Trust
As soon as possible after your divorce, you may want to meet with your estate planning attorney to help update your will and trust. He will be able to identify parts of your estate plan that no longer fit your new lifestyle. Ultimately, your first course of action should be to revoke your outdated will. You can execute this by:
- Destroying the old one by tearing, shredding, or burning it
- Creating a new will with a clause declaring any prior documents obsolete
Revisions to Your Estate Plan
If you created your estate plan before a divorce, any gifts you designated to your ex-spouse in that estate plan will likely be revoked and distributed to another party after the divorce, unless you specify otherwise. Therefore, it’s important to talk with your attorney to revise the following legal documents to ensure they designate your estate the way you want:
- Will. A will enables you to designate beneficiaries for inheritances. If your spouse was to receive an inheritance from you, it will likely be cancelled when you divorce, unless you declare otherwise. However, it’s still important to designate a new beneficiary for that portion of your estate.
- Trust. A trust holds money for a beneficiary and protects it from unnecessary taxing in probate or improper access. It’s prudent to update your trust to ensure your ex-spouse cannot gain access to those funds or change the terms of the trust if you die.
- Power of attorney. A power of attorney allows a designated person to make medical and financial decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated. If your spouse was your agent, it’s important to update your power of attorney documents.
- Executor. After your passing, your named executor manages all of your assets and takes charge of your estate—including bank accounts, business holdings, and money to beneficiaries. Most likely, if you named your ex-spouse as executor, your alternate executor (if you named one in your will) would take her place. However, it’s prudent to name a new executor and back-up executor.
- Guardianship designation over minor children. Naming a guardian over your minor children ensures that a person whom you trust will raise them in case of your death and the death of your ex-spouse.
We Are Here for You
Updating your estate plan is important to ensure that your wishes are carried out. If you have questions about wills and trusts or other aspects of estate planning, our team can help. At Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum, we have the experience necessary to assist you with complicated legal issues. Contact us by filling out the online contact form on our website.