Why is it Important to Check My Estate Plan After a Divorce?

May 20, 2021

Prior to a divorce, an estate plan is made in a time that may look nothing like a person’s post-divorce reality. The following actions must be made to construct an effective estate plan:

  • Prepare and execute a last will that directs how assets are distributed after death. One can only have a single valid will at any point in time.
  • Prepare and execute a power of attorney that gives financial or other authority to a designated person.
  • Prepare and execute a health care proxy, so another person can make important health care decisions in the event of a medical emergency.

There might be changes in beneficiaries to life insurance policies or a 401(k), IRA account, or life trust after a divorce. Life trusts for minor children of the marriage may change the trustee.

How Does a Divorce Affect an Estate Plan?

Divorce is not always clear-cut. Divorce is not a stigma, it is a legal end to a marriage. With the end of the marriage, documents prepared and executed in a different period of time may no longer reflect a person’s new wishes for estate distribution. One may want to change pervious decisions about a life insurance or retirement plan payout.

Last will provisions must be re-evaluated after a divorce. Who will be the executor of the estate? Who will be the guardian for minor children? Guardianship is a court matter. One may want to leave a letter that states preferences about a court-appointed guardian for minor children.

In addition to revoking a prior will and executing a new will, the lawyer can discuss effectuating other decisions. For a life insurance policy, a beneficiary designation is filed with the insurance company. Changing beneficiaries requires following insurance company protocols. Changing a trust or retirement beneficiary may involve amending an existing document, such as a life trust deed, or contacting the insurance company.

How has the Pandemic Affected Divorce?

Courts were generally closed during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. More spouses considering divorce have taken a more cautious or slower route. This is only a delay and not a permanent situation. Even spouses who continued to live under the same roof will probably proceed with the divorce. These newly divorced spouses and ex-spouses who never got to revisit their estate plans all need to act quickly and consult a lawyer.

What Should I Give My Lawyer?

Those who are newly divorced should provide the lawyer with a copy of any separation agreement that includes the disposing of marital property and assets that contain financial commitments for alimony and child support. A copy of a court order that imposes the disposition of marital property/assets and contains the financial commitments post-divorce is also needed.

What if I am Going to Remarry?

When thinking about remarrying, one should consider the need for a pre-nuptial agreement, which is a contract between prospective spouses laying out pre-marital assets and martial property.

After a divorce, it is important to speak to an experienced lawyer for guidance about updating an existing estate plan. Post-divorce, the formerly married still needs to abide by previous agreements and court orders.

Media Estate Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Advise Divorcees on Estate Plans

An estate plan is essential, but it can change after a life event. Reviewing and closely examining someone’s estate plan after a divorce is a task only an experienced lawyer should handle. The Media estate lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. can help you with your estate plan post-divorce. Complete our online form or call us at 610-565-3701 for a free consultation. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.