If you get divorced, it is important that you revisit your estate plan to make sure your ex-spouse is excluded, if desired, and that what he or she would have received is distributed to someone else.
The U.S. has a high divorce rate. Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce.
The rates are even higher for second and third marriages. One of the issues concerning the high divorce rate is that people get distracted by the divorce itself and then fail to update their estate planning afterwards.
Ex-spouses are routinely left in many estate plans.
If an ex-spouse is mentioned in a will that was executed before the divorce, then in most instances the ex-spouse will be constructively written out of the will by a court.
However, that means that the deceased does not get to make a decision about where the ex-spouse's portion of the estate should go, and other legal instruments do not necessarily automatically exclude an ex-spouse.
Recently, the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog listed some things that need to be done after a divorce in "Don’t Let Divorce Distract You from Important Estate Planning Considerations," including:
- Any will that mentions the ex-spouse needs to be revoked or rewritten to strike any mention of the ex-spouse and distribute the estate to other heirs. If you have other estate planning instruments, such as trusts, those should also be reviewed.
- If an ex-spouse is listed as a beneficiary on insurance policies or retirement accounts, then those need to be changed. However, do not do so, if you were ordered to leave the ex-spouse as the beneficiary in a divorce agreement or judgment.
- If you have powers of attorney that appoint your ex-spouse to act on your behalf, then you should get new documents created to designate someone else.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Jan. 11, 2018) "Don’t Let Divorce Distract You from Important Estate Planning Considerations."