Once you have finalized your divorce, one of the last things you probably want to think about is your death. However, after your divorce has been completed, you should be thinking about how to plan your estate. Most likely you will have documents listing your property, assets, and debts from the divorce so it is a perfect time to work on adjusting your estate planning.
Throughout your marriage, you and your former spouse may have worked thoroughly through estate planning for your family by creating wills, health related documents, and powers of attorney. Your former spouse is most likely listed as your beneficiary on all of your bank accounts, retirement benefits, and life insurance. However, now that you are divorced, it is important to decide how you would like your estate to now be handled upon your death and what should happen to your property.
You should consider reviewing the following areas after your divorce:
Wills: If you created a will which named your former spouse as the executor or as a beneficiary, you will need to create a new will which revokes the prior will and also leaves your property as you now wish. Some states do remove your former spouse from any estate documents automatically when the divorce is finalized, however, it is in your best interest to create a new will in case your state does not.
Life Insurance: When you enroll in life insurance, you usually name your spouse as the beneficiary. If you do not change your beneficiary on your life insurance, your former spouse will receive all of the proceeds after your death. If you do not wish to leave the proceeds to your former spouse, you will need to change the beneficiary to someone else. If you have children under the age of 18, you can create a trust to benefit your children and have the trust be funded from any proceeds from your life insurance policy.
Financial Accounts and Retirement Benefits: IRAs, 401(k)s, annuities, pensions, saving accounts, and checking accounts will need to be reviewed once you have finalized your divorce to ensure who has access to which accounts. If you have named your former spouse as a beneficiary to any of these accounts, you will probably want to adjust it to name someone else.
Children’s Guardianship: If you should die before your former spouse, they will most likely receive full guardianship of your children. However, if your former spouse dies before you, it is recommended to name someone as your children’s guardian throughout your estate planning. If you do not feel that your former spouse should be the sole guardian if something should happen to you, you can name someone else as guardian and it will be considered by the court.
The following documents are recommended, by an estate attorney to be reviewed and updated upon the completion of your divorce:
- Life insurance beneficiary
- Powers of Attorneys
- Financial accounts
- Titles to property
- Retirement accounts
- Healthcare power of attorneys