Today I’m going to talk about how divorce can cause big problems for your estate plan. You might be thinking, “I finally got the final order from the court. I’m free of this person. I can move on. The divorce is final.” You can move on, but before you do that, you need to think about making sure that they don’t get any of your assets after you pass away. You need to look at your retirement accounts, your investment accounts, life insurance policies, anything you have that has a beneficiary, you need to look at it and make sure your ex-spouse isn’t a beneficiary. Too often with those policies and those plans, we just set it and forget it. We set at once, never think about it again. Take the time, look at the beneficiaries, and make sure they’re not going to be benefiting from you passing away.
Next, if you have a revocable trust and they could be a contingent beneficiary or a beneficiary of that, make sure that you take them off that. With a revocable trust, it can still be revoked, it can still be amended provided your the trustor or the grantor, in other words, the person that made it, and you reserve the power to make those amendments. Check that too.
Next you need to look at your powers of attorney, medical, financial, your advanced directives, all of that. During your marriage you may have wanted them to make the decision on medical issues if you couldn’t make it yourself because you were incapacitated, or if you became incapacitated, you might’ve wanted them to be able to make financial decisions for you. You’re divorced now. You definitely don’t want that. You need to look at those documents and get them redrafted if your ex-spouse is on there anywhere.
Next you need to look at your will. Wills are typically written so things go to your spouse and then out to other people beyond that. The easiest way to deal with this is to make sure their name is written nowhere in there, and the estate planning document of the will doesn’t make any mention of the spouse, or the spouse’s ex-spouse, or ex-spouse’s name.
It’s important to take a look at all these documents to make sure that that person doesn’t profit from you passing away. You worked hard enough to get out of the marriage, now work a little bit harder and make sure they don’t get any of your money if you pass away.
If you have questions about this or any other estate planning topics, you can reach out to me at my office, (802) 442-9800, or schedule a consultation online.
William C. Deveneau is an attorney practicing in Southern Vermont, including Bennington and Manchester, and New York, including Albany, Colonie, Hoosick Falls, and Troy.