Becoming single, either after divorce or a spouse’s passing, can have significant impacts on an individual’s estate plan. Nearly all of an individual’s assets and documents should be revisited to check for potential issues. While some items may only need a minor tweak, other documents may need to be rewritten entirely.
Perhaps the most obvious area to revisit are an individual’s will and any trusts they may have. While some states automatically invalidate bequests to divorced spouses, others do not. To ensure against an inadvertent testamentary gift to an ex-spouse, individuals should revoke their earlier wills and revocable trust documents and then draft a new estate plan with an elder law attorney.
An elder law attorney will help develop a revised plan to appropriately deal with an individual’s changed circumstances. An elder law attorney can also help find areas that can often go overlooked when a person becomes single.
Powers of attorney, either for financial or health decisions, need to be revoked and replaced to prevent an ex-spouse from inadvertently being empowered over an individual’s health or financial affairs. An elder law attorney can make sure that any and all necessary revocations are properly drafted, recorded, and, if necessary, replaced with new documents entrusting different people with a person’s future.
Beneficiary designations also can be overlooked. A will and trust may not cover all an individual’s assets. Accounts, insurance policies, and other assets that have a transfer-upon-death provision fall outside of a person’s probate estate. Upon an individual’s death, these assets go straight to whomever is the designated beneficiary. Even after a divorce where the asset is solely in an individual’s name, the beneficiary designation on those assets may not have been changed. An elder law attorney can help individuals go over their full range of assets to make sure nothing has been overlooked.
To help reevaluate your estate plan in the face of life changes, please call Martha C. Brown & Associates at (314) 962-0186.