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How Your Estate Plan Should Change After a Divorce

How Your Estate Plan Should Change After a Divorce

Woman holding small house, probate

After a divorce, the legal relationship between the former spouses, necessitating a change in estate plans. Many individuals name their spouse to important roles and this work must be unwoven to protect a person’s interests after divorce. Some aspects of the estate plan that may need to be changed include:

The Will

Spouses may have named each other the executor of each other’s will. Additionally, the spouse may stand to inherit everything. Changes are usually required to the will to avoid these unintended consequences. Alternative beneficiaries may need to be established along with considerations for a new executor.


If the spouses created any trusts together, these may need to be modified. If the spouse was a trustee, the other spouse may not want him or her to retain this position. Additionally, if the spouse was a named beneficiary, this information may need to be changed in favor of the spouses’ children or another beneficiary.

Designated Beneficiary

Spouses are commonly named the designated beneficiary in life insurance policies, payable on death accounts and retirement accounts. Even if the will is changed, these assets pass according to the beneficiary designation listed on the policy. To avoid an ex-spouse receiving these funds, it is important to modify the beneficiary designation forms.

Guardian Provision

A spouse may be named as a guardian in a power of attorney or other legal document. The spouse may no longer trust the other spouse to act in his or her best interests. There may be some financial gain if the spouse is declared incapacitated and in need of guardianship. Additionally, if the nominated guardian for any minor children is someone other than the spouse, the spouse may include a memorandum explaining to the court why the other parent should not be named guardian in the event the custodial parent dies.

Power of Attorney

A probate lawyer can explain that it is also common for spouses to name each other as power of attorney for financial purposes and healthcare purposes. Again, after a divorce, this can place a spouse in a position in which he or she can take advantage and acquire financial gain if he or she does not execute the agent duties appropriately. Additionally, a person who is a power of attorney for healthcare should not have an incentive for the principal to die, such as being named as the life insurance beneficiary.

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