Divorcing your spouse should trigger estate planning changes.
People do not enter marriage intending to divorce.
Instead, they plan as if they will live a lifetime together.
These often include joining finances and retitling property.
According to a recent Yahoo News article titled “I’m Divorcing. Will That Impact My Estate Planning?,” this means many steps need to be taken should divorce bring an end to the marriage.
When it comes to estate planning, divorce is a major life event.
What should be done?
Revise Your Will.
You likely named your spouse as the beneficiary if you created a last will and testament while married.
After divorcing your ex, this arrangement becomes less appealing.
Although some states revoke estate bequests to ex-spouses automatically, you should work with your experienced estate planning attorney to ensure the right individuals will inherit from your estate.
Change Your Trust.
If your estate plan includes a trust, did you designate your spouse as a trustee?
If yes, you will want to remove your ex-spouse from this role.
Review Your Insurance Policies.
Divorcing a spouse means insurance policies need to be changed.
If you were on your spouse’s health insurance plan, you would no longer qualify and need your own policy after the divorce.
You will likely want to update your beneficiary designations if you have a life insurance policy.
Change Your Power of Attorney.
If you appointed your spouse to make health care and financial decisions on your behalf, should you become incapacitated, it would be wise to appoint someone else.
Do you really want your ex-spouse showing up to make your life-and-death decisions?
Start by notifying your ex-spouse of the change, update the power of attorney documents with the appropriate language, get the documents notarized, and tell your new agents and the relevant institutions.
Divide Retirement Accounts.
Divorcing and dividing assets often go together.
Retirement accounts tend to get placed on the chopping block.
The court must issue a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) to split defined contribution plans without adverse income tax consequences.
The court is responsible for determining the separate and marital properties.
The signing of the QDRO by the judge allows plan administrators to enforce the order.
What plans are typically governed by the qualified domestic relations order?
These are retirement plans governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974 and include any 401(k), 403(b), and Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) accounts.
Whether you have just begun the process of divorcing your spouse or are nearing the end, you must take action to account for your changing circumstances.
Reference: Yahoo News (Feb. 3, 2023) “I’m Divorcing. Will That Impact My Estate Planning?”