One of the first things that you should do after a divorce is finalized is to change all of your estate planning documents to reflect your new life circumstances.
People react in a couple of different and predictable ways when their divorces are finalized. Some people are sad while others are elated. Nearly everyone, however, thinks that after a judge signs an official decree of divorce, everything is finalized and they are legally free of their ex-spouses.
That is not necessarily the case if you have any end-of-life or estate planning documents.
A recent Forbes article titled “The First Thing You Must Do When Your Divorce Is Final” illustrates this concern.
If your ex-spouse’s name is still on estate planning documents, then many of them will still be legally enforceable. For example, if your ex-spouse is named as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy or a trust, your ex-spouse will still be a beneficiary until the documents are changed.
If your ex-spouse is named as a power of attorney, then your ex-spouse will still have that authority. The one document that might not still be valid as written is a will as many states will strike any will provisions that include an ex-spouse if the will was created before the divorce was finalized.
Although not changing your will to exclude an ex-spouse means you do not get to determine who should get the assets instead.
What this means is that after getting a divorce you need to review your estate plan and make any necessary changes. The one caveat? You should not disobey any orders made during the divorce.
For example, if you were required by the terms of the divorce to leave your wife as a beneficiary of a retirement policy, then you must continue to do so for as long as required.
Reference: Forbes (Aug. 14, 2016) “The First Thing You Must Do When Your Divorce Is Final.”