Divorce is a stressful event, and it can be difficult to know what to do with your assets. But one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your family after a divorce is to update your estate plan as soon as possible.
Generally, you need to review your will, trust, power of attorney and health care directive after a divorce. These documents will need to be redrafted to keep your assets out of reach from your former spouse.
Review Your Will
Divorce is a major life event that will affect your estate plan. You should review and update your estate plan as soon as possible after a divorce to ensure your wishes are carried out.
You may also want to revise your estate plan if you have a new partner, children or other significant changes in your family situation. This will allow you to ensure that your estate plan is reflective of your current circumstances and will protect your beneficiaries when they pass on.
Many married couples designate their spouse on documents such as a durable power of attorney and advance healthcare directive, which provide them with authority over their finances and medical care should they become incapacitated. During a divorce, these documents can be updated to name another trusted adult as your new agent. This is especially true for a durable power of attorney, where you can remove your ex-spouse from the role. If you have a living will, it’s important to change this as well, removing your ex-spouse and naming someone else who will be your agent when you are unable to make decisions for yourself.
Review Your Trust
After a divorce, it’s important to update your trust to reflect any changes in your situation. For example, you may have a new baby or an adopted child who should be included as a beneficiary of your trust.
You also may want to consider disinheriting a spouse or a child, or adding a charity as a beneficiary. These changes can make a significant difference in the way your estate is distributed after your death.
Revising your trust can be a complex process, so you should consult an experienced Albany estate planning attorney for guidance. If you’re going through a divorce, it’s important to take care of this issue as soon as possible to avoid giving your former spouse any control over your assets or future decisions.
Review Your Power of Attorney
A power of attorney allows you to name someone to handle your legal, financial or medical affairs when you cannot. It’s a simple process, but can be intimidating if you aren’t familiar with it.
When you are in the middle of a divorce, it is important to update your power of attorney to ensure that the person you designate has the authority to act on your behalf. A new power of attorney should revoke all previous documentation and should be signed in front of two witnesses and a notary public.
This document can be effective immediately or it can be made to only go into effect if you become incapacitated. In either case, a durable power of attorney should be in place to avoid your partner or other family members having to file conservatorship proceedings.
A durable power of attorney can be a very useful tool to have in place as long as you choose the right person to act on your behalf. It’s also a great way to ensure that your finances are in good hands should you ever become incapacitated.
Review Your Health Care Directive
A health care directive, also called an advance directive or living will, is a legal document that helps you express your medical wishes in the event you become too sick or injured to make decisions for yourself. It also names someone (called an agent) to make these decisions for you if you are no longer capable of doing so.
Having a health care directive will save your loved ones and health care providers time, money and grief during an otherwise difficult time in your life. Having an advanced directive can also make your health care provider more comfortable in providing you with the best treatment options that you feel will enhance your quality of life.
If you haven’t already done so, consider filling out a health care directive before your next trip to the doctor. There are online and paper forms available. Just make sure you have it signed by two witnesses or a notary public and give copies to your doctors and family members.