If you’re divorcing, you’ll almost certainly want to make some changes to your estate plan. It’s wise to have both estate planning and family law guidance as you do this.
Getting the timing right for many of the changes is crucial. It’s also important to know what other estate-related documents you’ll need to amend.
Don’t forget beneficiary designations
You likely no longer want to leave the bulk of your assets to your soon-to-be-ex. However, remember that just changing your will isn’t often enough to accomplish this. If you’ve listed your spouse as your designated beneficiary on any of your investment or other accounts, you need to change the beneficiary directly on those.
Just changing it in your will isn’t enough. Financial institutions are required to follow the designations made with them. If your spouse is your designated beneficiary on any of your retirement accounts, you may need to wait until those have been divided in the divorce using a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO).
Changing executor, trustee, health care agent and other administrative roles
Chances are that your spouse is the executor of your estate, a trustee or co-trustee of various trusts and your health care agent. You’ve probably given them the power of attorney (POA) responsibilities for finances. Unless you still want them to have all that authority – not just after you die, but if you become incapacitated — you’ll need to find one or more trusted people to fill those roles.
Guardianship of your children
In most cases, if one parent dies, the other one automatically assumes sole guardianship. However, if you’re getting sole custody of the children because of an issue with domestic violence or substance abuse, you may need to name a trusted family member or friend to be their guardian if anything happens to you while they’re still minors.
These are just a few things to consider. Everyone’s situation is different. You may have certain financial obligations to your ex-spouse even after your death. Some changes also cannot be made until the divorce is final. If you have a joint will that needs to be untangled. For these reasons and more, having sound legal guidance to ensure that your divorce and estate planning changes are considered together is essential.