When you originally created your estate plan, you expected that your marriage would last until you passed away. Sadly, it did not. Now, you face dividing your property and perhaps dividing custody of your children.
You have a lot on your plate right now with all of the life changes and tasks you must go through in order to end your marriage. For this reason, you may have forgotten about your estate plan, which could require substantial changes now that you are reentering the single life.
How does your divorce affect your estate plan?
Some of the changes you need to make cannot take place until you finalize your divorce, so you will need to keep track of them in order in order to attend to them when the time comes. In fact, it may work out better for you to make all of the required changes at one time, but first, it would help to know what changes you may need to make such as those below:
- It's common for spouses to name each other as executor of their estates in their wills. You may want to change this since most people would not want their former spouses in charge of their estate after death.
- It's common for spouses to name each other as guardian of their children should they pass away while the children have yet to reach the age of majority. Even though your former spouse would more than likely take over the care of the children if you pass away, you could appoint someone to serve as an alternate guardian.
- If you left your property to your soon-to-be former spouse, you may want to choose one or more other people to receive your assets, such as your children, if you have any.
- If you have a revocable trust that lists your future ex as a beneficiary, you may want to change that as quickly as possible unless you enter into some agreement not to do so as part of the divorce.
- If you named your spouse as your agent in your health care and financial powers of attorney, consider changing that as soon as you can. You may no longer feel comfortable with him or her making such important decisions on your behalf.
- When you can, change any beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, retirement accounts and the like if you do not want your former spouse receiving the proceeds from them. You may not be able to take this step until after finalizing the divorce.
If you entered into a prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement, you've probably already reviewed it in light of the divorce, but you need to review it again as it pertains to estate planning. Your other estate planning documents must remain consistent with that agreement. If you chose to provide for your spouse in your pre- or post-nuptial agreement, you may need to honor those provisions now.
Even if you make changes to your estate plan during the divorce, you will want to look at it again after you finalize the divorce. When you do, it would certainly help to understand what the law says regarding changes to an estate plan after a divorce to make sure that a New Jersey court does not invalidate them when the time comes.