Divorce & Estate Planning: Why This Major Life Change Warrants A Review Of Your Long-Term Goals

Jun 12, 2024

Ending your marriage is a significant decision that will not only impact your life immediately, but likely for years into the future, as well. Whether you and your spouse were married for a short period of time or a longer one, you will have to undergo the complicated process of untangling your shared assets, determining custody arrangements (if you share children), and coming to agreements on child support and alimony.

In the midst of all of this, you may neglect or completely forget about one very important task that should be handled following a divorce, and that’s revisiting your estate plan to reassess your documents and ensure they align with your current wishes and circumstances. In order to safeguard your interests and protect your loved ones, it is essential that you review and update your estate plan in a timely manner, and with the aid of a skilled estate planning attorney.

Our lead attorney, Stephanie Dailey, is uniquely positioned to help you navigate both your divorce and estate planning needs! We’ve also put together this blog to better help you understand the key considerations and steps involved with an estate plan review following divorce to make your experience a successful one!

How Does Divorce Impact An Estate Plan?

If you created your estate plan when you were still married, it likely reflects your goals and wishes from a time when you were still part of a couple. Now that you aren’t, it’s necessary to conduct a careful review and alteration of your current plan, or possibly even have it completely nullified and create a new one.

One benefit specific to the state of Ohio is that certain estate planning provisions for former spouses are automatically revoked following divorce, including bequests and fiduciary appointments such as executor and trustee that favor your ex (Ohio Revised Code Section 2107.33). Unless expressly stated otherwise, Ohio courts will essentially treat your former spouse as if they had passed away before you.

The downside to this is that if you fail to make new appointments in place of your spouse, your loved ones will face difficult legal challenges in trying to gain access to your assets upon your death, which is why a timely revision is crucial to protecting your intentions.

However, this law does not apply to things like life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other financial accounts and assets! You must remember to update your beneficiary designations or your former spouse will be within their rights to claim those assets. In Ohio, as well as other states, beneficiary designations outweigh the provisions in your will, so you cannot rely on that to protect your hard-earned wealth!

Finally, if your spouse has power of attorney in any capacity, you should revoke the old document and create a new one in order to guarantee that those authorized to make legal, financial, and/or healthcare decisions on your behalf are individuals you know and trust inherently.

Understanding these impacts is crucial for ensuring that your estate plan accurately reflects your post-divorce wishes and protects your loved ones, as well as your assets.

What Steps Should Be Taken To Address The Changes That Divorce Brings?

1. Collect all current documents – Assemble the most recent versions of your estate planning materials, including your will(s), trust(s), life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and powers of attorney. Ideally, you should have multiple copies on hand, but if you realize you’ve misplaced them at some point over the years or are uncertain of their whereabouts, the attorney who originally prepared these documents on your behalf should be able to furnish additional copies.

2. Assess beneficiary designations – We cannot emphasize enough the importance of updating your beneficiary designations after a divorce. Again, beneficiary designations take precedence over your will, so regardless of whether your divorce happened recently or years ago, your ex-spouse will still have access to your accounts if they remain listed as a beneficiary. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you’ve addressed everything just by revising your will!

3. Tend to your will and trust(s) – In some cases, it may be best to simply revoke your old will and/or trust and create new ones; in others, revisions might be possible. It’s important to consult with an experienced estate planning lawyer to determine the best course of action for your specific situation.

4. Reevaluate power of attorney – Revoke old power of attorney documents if your ex is named as your agent. Then, create new ones once you have determined who you want to serve as your agent.

5. Consider guardianship designations – It may be necessary to revisit any guardianship provisions you previously created for any minor children you share with your ex, depending on your custody arrangement.

6. Have a discussion with close relatives about their own estate plans – It is likely that an immediate family member also has your ex named in their own documents, whether as a fiduciary or heir. Remind them to address their own documents and make revisions as they see fit.

What Is The Role Of An Estate Planning Lawyer After Divorce?

While your divorce may be the catalyst for revisiting your estate planning goals, you may find that your wishes and values have changed in other areas, too. An experienced estate planning attorney can provide invaluable assistance following your divorce by ensuring that your estate plan accurately reflects your new circumstances, protects your interests, and still aligns with your overarching goals.

They can help you update your will, trusts, and beneficiary designations to exclude your former spouse and designate new beneficiaries. Additionally, they can guide you through revoking and reassigning powers of attorney to trusted individuals, to make sure your wishes are clearly documented and legally enforceable.

This comprehensive review and revision of your estate plan works to safeguard your assets and align your estate distribution with your current intentions, providing peace of mind and security for your future.

Contact Dailey Law Offices To Schedule A Free Consultation!

Whether you are contemplating divorce, recently went through divorce, or went through divorce a while ago but haven’t taken the time to reevaluate your estate plan, Dailey Law Offices is here to serve you! For 20 years, we have helped protect Ohio residents while they end their marriage, as well as create effective estate plans that safeguard their legacy. Call today to book your free initial consultation and learn more about how our team can guide you through your divorce and/or the estate planning process.