Your ex or soon-to-be ex-spouse may still have authority over your medical and financial affairs after your divorce. This should send shock-waves through most people knowing their ex-spouse may still have so much control over them after they part company in a divorce. This is why it is important to update your beneficiary designations and other estate planning documents to prevent your soon-to-be ex-spouse from inheriting money or remaining in positions of authority.
Estate planning is the creation of documentation to maintain and effectively control your financial and health care security. Using legal documents such as wills, trusts, powers of appointment, and powers of attorney , including the durable financial power of attorney , the durable medical power of attorney, and a living will, estate planning helps you protect your assets and ensure your loved ones are cared for following your death or incapacity.
Ordinarily, wills, trusts, healthcare directives, etc. are typically the last thing on your mind if you are going through a divorce . There are enough legalities to sort through and plan for while handling a divorce, which can cause estate planning to feel like an added burden during an already difficult time.
Still, you may be surprised to learn that your most important legal and financial documents are not automatically made null and void during or after a divorce ; that is, divorce may not nullify the beneficiaries named on your accounts /documents or those to whom you have given authority roles.
If you do not update your estate plan documents and you become incapacitated during or after the divorce proceedings, your soon-to-be ex-spouse may still have authority over your medical and financial affairs. In the event of a serious health care crisis or future disability, it is critical to have someone you trust in a position of responsibility.
Your healthcare directives (also referred to as a living will and healthcare power of attorney ) name the person who can make medical decisions on your behalf in an emergency. If you do not amend this document, your ex-spouse (or soon-to-be) may bear the responsibility of making life and death decisions for you and managing your future healthcare needs. Also, most people would wince at the idea of their ex-spouse (or soon-to-be) having the ability to pay bills, access accounts and sell assets on their behalf.
Or, if you should pass away during or after the divorce proceedings without updating key beneficiary designations, your soon-to-be ex-spouse may still stand to inherit from your estate. Most insurance policies , bank accounts , retirement accounts and investment account include the designation of a beneficiary. This is the person who will receive some or all of the money from that policy or account upon your death.
To summarize, when experiencing a divorce , you should reevaluate your estate plan. Key provisions in your will, trust, powers of attorney , retirement accounts, life insurance policies, etc., must be updated to ensure your soon-to-be ex-spouse is no longer named as a beneficiary or in a position of authority over your personal affairs. You may also need to select a new personal representative (that is, an executor), power of attorney and health care surrogate whom you trust to oversee your finances and uphold your medical desires if the unthinkable happens.
About the Author:
The Managing Attorney of Robert M. Goldberg Associates, Bob Goldberg is a licensed attorney and counselor at law in the State of Georgia, as well as a member of the Georiga Bar Association, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and Wealth Counsel.
Robert M. Goldberg & Associates is a unique law firm with offices in Atlanta, Griffin and Peachtree City, Georiga who understands your particular needs and situation, and will generate value for you; services include comprehensive estate planning, elder law and probate services.
This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.