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Estate Planning After Divorce

More than a few New Jersey residents who’ve been through a divorce say that the dissolution of their marriages turned their lives upside down. Whether or not a divorce completely topples a person’s life depends on the circumstances surrounding a particular case. With that said, a divorce does necessitate that changes be made to a once married person’s estate plan. There are a number of steps that likely need to be taken in regard to estate planning after divorce. These include:

  • Remake medical power of attorney
  • Remake living will or advanced directive
  • Write a new last will and testament
  • Amend existing trust agreement
  • Amend financial power of attorney
  • Change beneficiaries on life insurance
  • Change beneficiaries on retirement plan
Remake Medical Power of Attorney

Odds are strong that your now former spouse was your “agent” of decision maker in your medical power of attorney. In other words, pursuant to an existing power of attorney, if you become incapacitated your former spouse is the person dedicated to make medical and healthcare decisions for you.

In the aftermath of a divorce you likely do not want your former spouse in a position to make life and death medical decisions for you when you are unable to do so for yourself. Therefore, you need to remake a medical power of attorney or power of attorney for healthcare to reflect who you want to make healthcare-related decisions for you when you cannot do so yourself.

Remake Living Will or Advanced Directive

On a related note, you may have had a living will or advanced directive while you were married. This document indicates what types of extraordinary medical interventions you do or do not want to sustain your life. The instrument contains a person vested with authority to address issues in your living will if you are incapacitated and cannot do so on your own. As is the case with a medical power of attorney, this person likely is your ex-spouse.

You will want to review your living will and advanced directive after a divorce. You likely will want to remake this instrument as well to reflect your existing post-divorce situation.

Write a New Last Will and Testament

If you made a last will and testament while you were married, that instrument needs to be revisited as well. If you are like most people who make a will while married, a considerable amount of your estate (if not all of it) is dedicated to go to your spouse. Following a marriage dissolution case, you undoubtedly will want to make sure that your existing will listing your ex-spouse as a beneficiary no longer is effective and that you have a new one in place in a reasonable period of time.

Amend Exiting Trust Agreement

If you have an existing trust, the instrument creating the trust also may need to be changed as part of your estate planning after divorce project. For example, your spouse may have been named as a trustee. In the alternative, your wife may have been listed as the trustee of your trust. In the alternative, your wife may be a beneficiary. In either case, you undoubtedly do not want your ex-wife or ex-husband to remain associated with an existing trust you set up previously.

Amend Financial Power of Attorney

When undertaking estate planning after divorce, you will want to change any existing financial power of attorney if your former spouse is the agent-in-fact identified by you on the instrument. As is the case with a number of other items mentioned a moment ago, you likely do not want your spouse making financial decisions for you should you become incapable of doing so yourself.

Change Beneficiaries on Life Insurance

If you have a life insurance policy that names your wife as the beneficiary or as one of the beneficiaries, that is also something you very likely will want to alter. If your children are also beneficiaries, you likely will want to keep that provision in place.

Change Beneficiaries on Retirement Plan

Finally, if you have a retirement plan, this is yet another asset that you need to determine whether a change is necessary following a divorce. If your spouse is a retirement plan beneficiary, you will want to alter that designation unless the divorce decree includes a directive that this needs to be unaltered or changed in a specific way to protect your spouse’s interest in it as a marital asset.

A New Jersey divorce lawyer can assist in identifying what needs to be done regarding estate planning following a divorce. Moreover, an established divorce lawyer undoubtedly has colleagues to which you can be referred for technical assistance regarding developing a new estate plan following a divorce. Call the Law Offices of Peter Van Aulen at 201-845-7400 for a free consultation today.

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