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How Divorce Affects Estate Plans

Posted on : April 12, 2018, By:  George Dillon

Divorces are cataclysmic. While going through a divorce, everything in a person’s life is affected, including where they will live and what property they will get to keep. Estate plans, also called life care plans, also change from the moment the divorce is initiated until the final settlement papers are approved.

Estate Plan: Your Strategy for the Future

After filing for divorce, your present and future are altered. Your estate plan documents should change also.

An estate plan is made up of documents that provide:

  • a way to dispose of a person’s estate assets,
  • critical information about future medical care decisions,
  • authorization for agents to make decisions for you, if necessary.

Divorce and Your Estate Plan.

Let’s look at some of the most common estate planning documents and see how a divorce action changes them:

  • Last Will and Testament – Yes, the Will is usually affected by divorce. When divorce is granted, bequests to the former spouse are revoked. In fact, the estate treats the former spouse as having predeceased the testator, the person who signed the Will. The exception here is when other arrangements or agreements have been made. For example, the divorce settlement might include provisions for the former spouse to receive an inheritance when the testator passes away first. Va. Code § 64.2-412(A)
  • Revocable Trusts – No, the beneficiaries and trustees named in a trust document are not revoked automatically because of a divorce. Instead, the person who created the trust will have to change the trust to remove references to the ex-spouse.
  • Power of Attorney – Yes, a spouse’s authority ends when a divorce action is filed unless the power of attorney states it is not affected by divorce. However, if your successor agent is an in-law you may no longer feel comfortable having them act as your agent. Execute a new power of attorney as soon as possible, appointing a new agent.
  • Advance Health Care Directives – No, your agent’s authority is not revoked by your divorce. Unless you want your ex-spouse making medical decisions for you, make a new directive as soon as possible.
  • Beneficiary Designations – Some financial and insurance accounts revoke an ex-spouse’s beneficiary status upon divorce. Others may not. When divorce becomes inevitable, review all your beneficiary designations.

Concerned About the Effects of a Divorce?

One final thought concerns your in-laws. Some documents, like your Will, automatically revoke bequests to your ex-spouse. However, your in-laws are not affected by such revocation. If you’ve named an of your ex-spouse’s family as an agent, beneficiary, or trustee, make sure you address this in your estate planning documents.

The lawyers at Dillon Law Group, PLC, provide customized and sympathetic advice to our clients. We will work with you to make thoughtful decisions about your future. Give us a call at 757-962-4796 or use our

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