Divorce is one of those times people need to update their estate plans

On Behalf of | Sep 10, 2023 | Estate Planning |

Estate planning can be a very stressful process, as people find it unpleasant to think about what might happen after a medical emergency or when they die. Oftentimes, family relationships are what motivate someone to create an estate plan. Someone getting married or having children might be the incentive that they require to stop procrastinating and put together documents that protect them and their loved ones.

However, if there is one mistake that people commonly make other than delaying the estate planning process entirely, it is acting as though a single planning session is all they might ever require. People frequently need to revisit and update their estate plans. For those in Washington, a divorce is one of the numerous circumstances under which a major overhaul of estate planning paperwork is likely necessary.

People need to remove their spouse from their documents

The most pressing concern for those updating an estate plan during or after a divorce will be eliminating their spouse as a beneficiary and replacing them with someone that they can trust if they hold the position of authority.

Advance directives and powers of attorney might require updates so that the agent authorized to act on someone’s behalf is not their spouse. Wills and trusts may require revisions to remove someone as a trustee or as a beneficiary. People may even need to file new paperwork with their life insurance company and other financial institutions so that their spouse is not the beneficiary of their life insurance policy or any transfer on death designations attached to sizable accounts.

Parents need to protect their children

When someone shares children with their spouse, that can add a layer of complication to the revision process during a divorce. Their children may replace their spouse as the primary beneficiaries, but they won’t have control over those resources until they become adults. Testators may need to create trusts to ensure that the other parent doesn’t gain control over the children’s inheritance and waste it before they are old enough to access and use those resources themselves.

Testators often discover that they need to significantly revise most of their paperwork and may even need to create entirely new documents in some cases in the wake of divorce. Understanding the impact that divorce can have on someone’s estate planning needs may help them take the appropriate steps to protect themselves and the beneficiaries that they have selected from inappropriate distributions or the misuse of the authority designated to a spouse in outdated estate planning documents.