Last time, we focused on the importance of updating your estate plan during and after a divorce. As I have acknowledged in that post, the process may get pretty overwhelming, and this is on top of the difficulties and adjustments that you are possibly going through because of the split.
Well, first of all, I got you! If we haven’t had a chat yet, make sure to check the links below to reach me. I’m here to help you out and make this process more bearable, as I have been happily doing with many others similarly situated.
But of course, I understand that some of you want to read up and do a bit more research before consulting your trusty estate planning attorney, so here we go!
Today, I decided to make a short run-down on what exactly you have to do with regard to your plan following the divorce. Here are your top three estate planning to-do’s!
1. Revise your estate plan. (No plan? Make one!)
Okay, I know I already mentioned this before (a lot of times, even!), but really–this is a must-do, folks! As I also have pressed home plenty of times, an estate plan is more than just a will. Sure, issues on property may have been resolved as a result of the divorce, but estate planning deals with plenty other things aside from your assets. You gotta settle those, too!
For instance, your estate plan, I assume, also contains powers of attorney for healthcare, money matters, and more. I assume, too, that if you named your ex-spouse in these documents, this is no longer what you want moving forward. If this is something that applies to you, then make sure to revisit and revise your plan ASAP! This will not only give you peace of mind, but it would help third parties, too, so that there would be no confusion on their part as to who they are to transact with concerning your personal affairs.
If you do not have an estate plan yet, now is definitely the best time to get one. After the divorce, you will have a clearer picture of what properties you exclusively own, how much they’re valued, who to retain, remove, or include as beneficiaries, and so on. These particulars following the divorce would surely make estate planning a whole lot easier and thus is very much encouraged!
2. Update your beneficiary designations on retirement plans and life insurance policies.
I have yet to discuss these thoroughly with you, but essentially, these are contracts where designations are also made by the plan/policyholder (this is you!) as to who is to receive the proceeds under the agreement.
As a rule, Missouri law automatically revokes designations made in favor of the other spouse once divorce has been finalized. This is actually a win for Missourians. (Not all states follow an automatic revocation rule after a divorce!) If your plan or policy is covered by this state rule, then there will definitely be a need to update your beneficiary designations now that your ex-spouse has been removed by operation of our state laws.
Here’s the thing, though: Automatic revocation does not apply to just any and all retirement plans and insurance policies. An example would be those employer-sponsored ERISA plans, which are regulated not by state law but federal law. Another one would be policies that have an irrevocable designation (or revocable only upon consent). For these kinds of contracts, it is best to update beneficiary designations as soon as possible, preferably with the guidance of your estate planning lawyer or similar expert, to avoid potential problems and family disputes.
3. Revisit other analogous documents.
What, there’s more?!
Well, we did already cover pretty much everything, but there are similar/related documents that you might also need to revisit now that you and your now ex-spouse are no longer married.
An example (from personal experience of some clients) would be parents’ estate plans that name the spouse as a beneficiary, along with their divorced child and their children, among others. If your parents did include your ex-spouse in their plan, make sure to talk to your parents about it and, together, revisit the plan, too, after updating yours.
As an upshot of the divorce and all these estate planning processes, you may also have to revisit your titled documents; there is most likely a need for an update, like having property ownership changed. Sure, these are all just mere formalities, but it definitely is prudent that these documents reflect each property’s new ownership (either in your name or your former spouse’s), following your new marital status.
And there you have your top three estate planning to-do’s after a divorce!
No worries—this is going to be casual, no pressure, and absolutely free!
I look forward to hearing from you and going through all these with you!