When going through a divorce, there are many complex emotions. And of all the tasks a person must accomplish during this process, updating their estate plan is often not the first thing on the list. However, it is critically important for recently divorced people to speak with an estate planning attorney and determine the appropriate changes that should be made. Below are explanations about how divorce can affect an estate plan and what people should do and change when going through this situation.
Changing the Will
In most situations, recently divorced individuals will have to change their will because their now ex-spouse was a primary beneficiary—meaning, they were set to receive most of the assets and property owned by the individual when they pass away. While most people assume they should only change the portions of the will that mention the ex-spouse, most estate planning attorneys recommend revoking the will and drafting a new one instead. Otherwise, making a series of slight revisions to the current document will often be more expensive and time-consuming than just creating a new will altogether.
In creating the new will, individuals should think about who they would now like to receive their assets. This could be a family member, close friend, or multiple people. Additionally, individuals may also want to change other aspects of their will, like the guardian for minor children based on their new life situation. It is important to note that many estate planning attorneys recommend waiting to change the estate plan until the divorce is finalized. Otherwise, it may complicate the divorce proceedings.
Altering Powers of Attorney
Besides changing a will, individuals should also revise after finalizing their divorce; this includes health care directives and medical and financial powers of attorney. A power of attorney makes a decision on another person’s behalf if they become incapacitated and cannot make the decision on their own. If an ex-spouse was listed as a medical and financial power of attorney, an individual may wish to reevaluate and name someone else. In Texas, the statutory forms may already account for divorce within the language and automatically void the power of attorney. In that case, it is critical to create a new one.
The new person should be someone trusted and who would think about what the incapacitated person would have wanted, if they were able to make the financial or medical choice themselves. Unlike a will—which should not be changed until after the divorce is finalized—Texans can update their powers of attorney during the divorce proceedings.
Because changing estate planning documents after a divorce can be complicated—during what is already a complicated time—individuals wishing to alter their estate plan should contact an experienced attorney.
Do You Need to Make Changes to Your Estate Plan?
If you are recently divorced and need to revise your estate plan, contact the Houston estate planning attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. By helping you to revise your estate plan, we aim to reduce your stress in what is presumably already a tough time. Additionally, if you do not have an estate plan in place, our attorneys can help with this too. To schedule a consultation and to speak with one of our attorneys today, give us a call at 713-333-8900.