With so much on your mind during the divorce process, it may not have occurred to you to update your estate plan. Unfortunately, death (or incapacity) can happen before your divorce is final, and you probably do not want the person you’re divorcing to oversee your finances and medical care during your separation. There are some things you can change while your final divorce decree is pending, and some things that you cannot change, or cannot change without providing notice to your estranged spouse.
What you can change:
- Your Advance Medical Directive: You can execute a new Directive, removing your soon-to-be-ex and appointing whomever you trust as your current health care agent to make crucial medical decisions if necessary.
- Your Durable Power of Attorney: You can execute a new Power of Attorney, appointing a trusted friend, family member or adult child to manage assets in case you are incapacitated permanently or temporarily. If a trusted individual is not willing or available, you can name a professional fiduciary or a financial advisor.
- Your Will: You can sign and witness a new Will, designating your preferred beneficiaries in case you pass away prior to the finalization of your divorce and eliminating your soon-to-be-ex as a beneficiary. If you die without a new Will, it is possible that your estranged spouse may receive all your assets.
What you may not be able to change:
- Your Trust Documents. Consult an estate planning attorney before making any changes to the terms or assets held in any type of Trust. There are specific rules and laws which prohibit changes without notice to the other spouse, so legal guidance is vital before revoking or changing these documents.
- Beneficiaries on Retirement Plans or Insurance Policies. Much like the rules for changes to estate planning provisions, these beneficiary designations should not be changed without obtaining competent legal counsel.
The key to successfully navigating divorce is gathering a team of legal and financial advisors who are dedicated to helping you protect yourself, your assets and your future.