Ask Heidi: What should I change in my Estate Plan after my divorce?

what should I change after a divorce

Answer: Divorce is a difficult process, no matter how amicable the split. Between property division, potential custody disputes, and escalating legal bills, no one wants to think about more legal hoops to jump through. While updating your estate plan during a divorce may be the last thing on your mind, a failure to do so could lead to unintended results. These five changes to your Estate Plan after a divorce:

1. Last Will and Testament. Spouses are usually provided for in Wills executed by married couples. Oftentimes a spouse will be named as the estate’s Personal Representative and may receive the bulk of the estate. Under Florida law any designation of a spouse is void post-divorce which can leave important roles unfulfilled and potentially an estate without designated beneficiaries. It is imperative to review and update your Will after a divorce —especially if you are amicable and still want your ex-spouse to be named in any capacity.

2. Durable Power of Attorney. This document authorizes an agent to act on an individual’s behalf. Since the agent for a married person is usually his or her spouse, this authorization is normally terminated within the body of the document upon certain events —divorce included, however, a formal recorded revocation is appropriate in a high conflict situation.

3. Medical Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Wills. Typically, the principal’s spouse is named as the agent if the principal is incapacitated. Another category addressed by Florida law upon divorce is in the area of health care and powers of attorney. If a husband or wife names his or her spouse as their health care surrogate or as the agent under their advance directive (living will), a subsequent divorce automatically revokes the designation, unless otherwise provided for in the advance directive/health care surrogate form, or final judgment of dissolution.

4. Trusts. Florida statute has the same effect on revocable trusts as the statute governing wills. It provides that any provision of a revocable trust (which is executed by a husband or wife prior to divorce) that affects the settlor’s spouse becomes void upon divorce. Unless the revocable trust expressly provides otherwise, the trust shall then be administered and construed as if the settlor’s spouse died on the date of the divorce.

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