Even in an amicable divorce, failing to change your estate plane can lead to unintended consequences and costly litigation down the road. Seeking the counsel of an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you sort out the details of updating your estate plan ensures that your interests are protected and your wishes are carried out after you’re gone.
Make a New Will
If you made a will while you were married, you most likely left everything to your spouse and named them as your executor. In Pennsylvania, the provisions in your will that involve your ex-spouse may be automatically revoked, but having a lawyer help you draft new estate planning documents such as family wills and trusts gives you a fresh start and allows you to name new beneficiaries, executors and trustees.
Naming a guardian for your minor children is also a vital part of a will. You can name whomever you want to serve as a guardian, but keep in mind that even if you don’t want your ex-spouse raising your children in the event of your death, courts only appoint guardians in cases where a parent is found to be unfit.
Update Other Beneficiary Designations
Many assets such as retirement accounts, life insurance policies and payable-upon-death bank accounts and brokerage accounts are not included in your will. Make sure to contact the administrators of these accounts to change beneficiary designations and update them in writing as soon as possible.
Create New Powers of Attorney
If your powers of attorney give your former spouse authority to make decisions on your behalf, revoke them and make new documents. Powers of attorney allow someone else to make decisions and act on your behalf should it become necessary due to incapacitation. You should have two powers of attorney: one for health care and one for finances. A durable power of attorney may give your spouse access to all of your accounts and assets even if you are not incapacitated. It’s important to revoke it as soon as possible, even during the divorce process, especially if your split is not amicable. Your divorce lawyer will execute a new one and provide your spouse with notice of the revocation.
If You Own a Business, Make a Succession Plan
Business succession planning is not only a valuable estate planning tool; it can protect your business in the event of divorce. Divorce can have a significant impact on a small business when issues of investment and ownership are involved and dealing with negotiations during the divorce process can make it difficult to focus on running your business. Protecting your small business before getting married or considering divorce is the best way to avoid getting mired in costly court battles. An experienced attorney can help you come up with small business succession planning strategies that safeguard your business and your financial future.
At Carosella & Associates, our experienced attorneys can guide you through the divorce process and ensure your updated estate plan protects your family’s interests.