A divorce is no doubt a challenging time in the lives of all who go through one. Even for the amicable splits, the time spent doing paperwork and discussing the best division of assets can be draining. Unfortunately, the issuance of a divorce decree or separation agreement is not the end of the journey. You will need to make changes to your estate plan to reflect your new circumstances and avoid regret down the road.
Do not think that changing your will is the only update you will need to make. After a divorce, any document may include your former spouse as a beneficiary. Pay special attention to your will, of course, but also consider your living trust and power of attorney documents. Also, be sure to update any life insurance policies or transfer-on-death provisions as well.
Updating Your Documents
If you’ve been through a divorce, consider revising your old will by executing a new one and destroying the old one. This will work to revoke the old will. Provisions that may need rewriting include arranging for any property previously designated for your spouse to go to an alternate beneficiary, updating the executor of your estate if it was previously your spouse, and designating a guardian of your children. Even though in all likelihood your spouse will be awarded custody of your children in the event of your death, if your wishes are for your children to live with another guardian, you should still include that language in your will.
If you had a living trust with your spouse as a beneficiary, you should create a new one that lists your children as beneficiaries. Trusts can also be used to maximize tax benefits for the transfer of retirement counts or can be the beneficiary of pay or transfer on death brokerage, bank, and life insurance accounts. The way you’ve set these benefits up may differ for children or an alternate beneficiary than they were arranged for your spouse, so review these provisions and ensure your wishes are best carried out. More than one living trust may be necessary to effectuate your goals.
In addition, avoid an uncomfortable situation in the event you have a healthcare emergency. If your former spouse is your agent on any power of attorney documents, update those to a trusted individual to make your sensitive healthcare decisions on your behalf.
Finally, some accounts, such as retirement accounts, may be considered marital assets. Work with a qualified estate planning attorney to make sure you consider this in your estate plans and update your account beneficiaries accordingly. An estate planning attorney can also help you gather and complete the necessary forms for beneficiary changes so you do not miss any steps along the way.
Speak with a Texas Estate Planning Attorney Today
If you are going through a big life change and need help reflecting those changes in your estate plan, contact the McCulloch Miller, PLLC law firm. Our attorneys are experienced in a wide array of estate planning dilemmas and situations and can help you tailor your plan to your unique needs. Call today to speak with a member of our team at (713) 903-7879.