This is an article from the Zimmer Law Firm (https://zimmerlawfirm.com/) in Cincinnati, Ohio, that we thought others may find helpful.
Estate planning gives you the opportunity to make your wishes known when it comes to your property and assets after you pass away. As you create your estate plan, you can also address end-of-life and incapacity issues. Because your estate plan deals with matters of fundamental importance for protecting you and your loved ones, you need to make sure your plan is up-to-date at all times. This means making changes to your plan when big life happens. One such big life event is a divorce.
If you have separated or have decided to end your marriage, you need to make sure that you update your estate plan so your ex is no longer the person who has power over your assets or the right to make decisions for you in case of incapacity. You also want to make certain that you are no longer leaving property to your ex or his family members.
Why is it Important to Update Your Estate Plan After Divorce?
A case called In Re the Estate of Robyn M. Lewis illustrates the importance of updating your estate plan after a divorce. This case is just one of many that show what can happen with estates throughout the country if you fail to update your plan. In this situation, litigation became necessary because a woman made a will in 1996 that bequeathed all her property to the man she was married to at the time. Her husband’s mother kept a copy of the will, which also named the husband as the executor of the estate.
The problem is, she divorced before her death. Unfortunately, before she passed away, she didn’t make changes to the estate plan. Her husband found out from an Internet search that his ex-wife had died and his mother found the old will in her dresser and sought to have it probated. Although the laws in the state where she lived disqualified the ex husband because of the divorce, her former father-in-law was named as the alternative beneficiary and he wasn’t disqualified. Litigation ensued, which made it all the way to the appeals court.
When situations like this happen, even if an ex ultimately does not end up inheriting, the costs of litigation alone can eat into an estate. An inheritance which could have been left to someone you actually love could be lost or depleted even in a best case scenario, and in a worst case scenario your money and property could go to an ex or his family.
The Steps to Updating Your Estate Plan After Divorce
When you update an estate plan after a divorce, changing your will is just one step in the process. If you have given your ex power of attorney and/or named your ex as a healthcare proxy to make medical decisions for you, you need to update this and name someone new. If you have your ex named as a beneficiary on any life insurance policies or pay-on-death accounts, this needs to be addressed as well. If you own property jointly, you need to have the property re-titled into the names of the new owners and make sure your ex won’t inherit it if you pass away.
Everyone has different types of investments and tools in their estate plan, so the process of updating your plan must be personalized to the types of documents you created and accounts opened when married. An attorney can help you to evaluate the entirety of your plan and to make appropriate modifications.