Updating an Estate Plan After a Divorce: Making sure your estate plan is up to date is important—especially after a divorce.
In New Jersey, if you know you are moving toward divorce, there is no better time than the present to look at your estate plan. After a divorce, state law revokes language in a Will executed prior to divorce that appoints property to a former spouse. However, this important revocation occurs only after divorce. In the interim, before or during divorce, your Will remains enforceable as written unless amended or remade.
After divorce, if you pass away without having revised your Will, you may be considered to have died intestate, without a Will, if your document does not name beneficiaries other than your former spouse. With no Will to direct distribution of your estate, the intestacy laws of New Jersey apply.
An estate plan requires considered thought. Many individuals undergoing or exiting a divorce do not feel up to the sometimes difficult decisions required of an estate plan. Nonetheless, a good estate plan—and updated documents—are the best way to protect you and your family.
Important estate planning points to review in the event of a divorce in New Jersey include:
- Beneficiaries: Update the beneficiaries of your life insurance, retirement funds, annuities and other policies or investments. Create and name a trust to receive proceeds for the benefit of your children or other persons.
- Guardians: If you have minor children, your ex-spouse is the guardian of your children, unless the parent is declared unfit by a court. Name a secondary guardian to care for your children in the event the need arises.
- Trust documents: Work with your estate planning attorney to update your living trust and other trust tools you may have after divorce.
- Advanced medical directives: Update your health care proxy directive to ensure appropriate individuals are named to make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated.
- Durable power of attorney: Like your health care proxy directive, be sure to create a new durable power of attorney to name an agent other than your former spouseto make financial decisions in your best interests if you are disabled.
- Will: A new Will is essential for persons moving through divorce. Your estate planning attorney can help you address important points including the designation of a new executor.
Once prepared, revisit your estate plan every three to five years, or as needed by life events or changes in tax and estate planning laws in New Jersey.
Be sure your estate plan protects you and your loved ones both during and after your divorce. When you have questions about your Will or planning documents in Hunterdon County or Union County, talk to a skilled estate planning attorney.