Divorce and Your Estate Plan

When people marry they often make preparations which include taking out insurance policies, making health care and financial directives, drafting wills, and creating other estate planning documents which benefit their spouse.  These kinds of estate-planning mechanisms are usually prepared by a couple who wants to ensure their partner and other loved ones will be taken care of and that their final wishes will be honored.  When faced with divorce the question arises:  What about divorce and your estate plan?

Your Last Will and Testament

For many people, their primary estate planning document will be their Last Will and Testament or Will.   This document allows its creator to state precisely who is going to inherit from their estate and in what quantity.  It permits the person to name an executor, make their final wishes known, and to request that a specific guardian be named for their minor children.  Under New York law, if you have a valid will, once your divorce decree becomes final, any bequests in your will to your former spouse will be considered revoked as if your former spouse predeceased you. Further, if your former spouse is named as your executor, they will automatically be removed.  Your former spouse can also have their right to inherit from your estate revoked if there is evidence that they abandoned you before your death.  Having provisions under the law revoking your former spouse’s connection to your will is a beginning.  Next, you will need to revise your will in order to ensure your estate is passed to people of your choosing.

Healthcare Proxy and Power of Attorney

Many people’s estate plans will also include a healthcare proxy.  A health care proxy, also known as an advance directive, allows you to name someone to make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated. If your former spouse is your healthcare proxy, their designation will be revoked upon your divorce becoming final.  As soon as divorce is considered, a new health care proxy should be executed.

Likewise, when someone has been named in a power of attorney role for you, this means they can make financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so.  If that person is your spouse and you later divorce, this power will be revoked once the divorce becomes final.  Again, if your spouse is the person with this power, it will be important to name someone else in this role once you know you are divorcing.

Insurance Policies and Retirement Benefit Plans

Some other places where spouses usually name each other are as a beneficiary of life insurance policies and pension or retirement benefit plans.  Fortunately, when a couple divorces and the divorce becomes final, the spouse is also removed as a beneficiary of these items.  The same is true of revocable trust.   However, as in the case of wills, a healthcare proxy, and a power of attorney, these revocations are only effective when there is legal separation or final divorce.  Therefore, it is imperative that you act as soon as possible to name new beneficiaries in order to make sure your benefits pass to your intended beneficiaries.  Otherwise, with your spouse revoked, these and other assets of your estate will pass according to State law rather than your wishes.

We are experienced in assisting client with preparing for their divorce while planning for their assets.  Visit our website at https://westchesterfamilylaw.com/.com and click on the “Contact Us” button and fill out the online form today. You also can also contact us at info@WestchesterFamilyLaw.com or by phone at 1-914-738-7765