Family Law

Thinking Ahead to Estate Planning Changes Due to Divorce

By Aaron Thomas, Attorney
What are the three estate planning steps you must take following a divorce?
When a couple divorces, the spouses experience many significant life changes. One or both spouses may be moving to a new residence, children split their time between two households, and a non-working spouse may return to the job force. During all of these changes, many spouses forget to update their estate planning arrangements. This article will explain the types of estate planning changes you’ll need to think about when you are newly divorced.

Updating Your Will

One of the most important things to do after a divorce is to draft a new will that reflects your new beneficiaries. Spouses often have wills designed to transfer their entire estates to their husband or wife in the event of their death. While many states have laws that automatically revoke any provisions in a will that leave assets to an ex-spouse, some states do not automatically disregard bequests to previous husbands or wives. Even if your state won’t hand over your estate to your ex-spouse, you’ll need to designate whether you want your estate to go to your children or other relatives and individuals.

Many people have also designated their spouse as the executor of their estate. As it wouldn’t be unheard of for a person who is friendly with their ex-spouse to designate them as executor of their estate, courts may be more hesitant to simply disregard a former spouse named as executor of your estate if you haven’t updated your will after a divorce.

If you have minor children, you should name a person that you would like to be their guardian in the event something happens to you and your ex-spouse is unable or unfit to care for them.

The laws surrounding trusts and estate law vary from state to state. If you are newly divorced or soon-to-be divorced, consult a local wills attorney to discuss what changes you’ll need to make in your will to reflect your new priorities.

Life Insurance Considerations

Many family law attorneys today include provisions in divorce settlements requiring each spouse to maintain life insurance in an amount sufficient to cover any child support and alimony obligations listed in the agreement, with either the children or previous spouse listed as a beneficiary.

What divorce lawyers have learned is that if a spouse is dependent on the alimony or child support agreed to in the settlement agreement, the family can suffer financially if the person making these payments dies unexpectedly. If you have child support or alimony obligations following a divorce, you’ll want to make sure you have enough life insurance in place to cover not just your personal debts or obligations, but also any obligations listed in your divorce settlement.

On the other hand, you may have no financial obligations under your divorce agreement, but need to update your life insurance policy to remove your ex-spouse as a beneficiary. Regardless of your situation, it’s a good idea to review your life insurance policy following a divorce to ensure it is up to date with your current obligations and intended beneficiaries.

Power of Attorney

When preparing your estate plan, you may have also created “power of attorney” documents that state who is authorized to make certain decisions on your behalf in the event you’re unable to make them. A medical power of attorney can designate another person to make end of life decisions, such as what measures should be taken to keep you alive, your desires for organ donation, and others. A financial power of attorney can give another person the authority to handle your financial affairs, such as transferring money to and from your accounts, paying your bills, or transacting of assets and property.

As with other estate planning documents, you’ll need to update these powers of attorney soon after your divorce. If you have additional questions about estate planning following a divorce, contact a local estate planning attorney.

Have a divorce question?
Get answers from local attorneys.
It's free and easy.
Ask a Lawyer

Get Professional Help

Find a Divorce lawyer
Practice Area:
Zip Code:
How It Works
  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Connect with local attorneys

Talk to a Divorce attorney.

We've helped 85 clients find attorneys today.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you