Estate planning after divorce: Don’t let your ex get it all

When you divorce, a lot of changes occur in your life. You might change your address. You might change your last name. But you definitely should consider changing your estate plan.

That’s because while you’re in the process of divorce, or even after it’s final, your ex-spouse could inherit assets that you’d rather divert elsewhere should you pass away. Or, your ex could wind up being in charge of decisions you’d prefer someone else make.

Here are a few estate-related topics to be aware of should you divorce:

  • Change your power of attorney and your health care directives. The power of attorney gives your ex control of financial decisions – even if the assets are individually owned by you and weren’t joint assets. With a health care power of attorney, often called a proxy, the person named can make decisions on your medical care. Chances are that when you created the proxy, you listed your spouse as the decision-maker. That might not be the best option for you now.
  • Update your will or trust. You can change your executor if that was your spouse. Post-divorce, once your assets have been divided, you can select someone else – perhaps your children, parents or siblings – to inherit your belongings.
  • Change your beneficiaries. The beneficiaries of your financial accounts, such as your retirement funds or life insurance, can be changed after the divorce is final. If you don’t change these, your ex-spouse could wind up with a financial windfall that you really wanted someone else to receive. If you don’t make the changes, your children or others could try fight your will, but that could be difficult and costly.

New Yorkers who divorce should be sure to consult their estate planning attorneys either during the divorce or just after it becomes final. Your changed life likely requires a changed estate plan.

FindLaw Network