Why You Should Update Your Estate Plan After a Divorce

By Michael DiFalco
Partner

An estate plan puts you in the driver’s seat and allows you to set plans for the future of your estate. But what if something happens, such as a divorce, that causes that future to change? A divorce essentially rewrites your future, which means your estate plan likely needs updating to reflect your new reality. 

To help ensure that you make the appropriate changes, strongly consider speaking with an experienced estate planning attorney before making any changes. 

Updating the Executor

When you pass away, your executor will be responsible for administering and protecting your estate during probate. Because of this, you need an executor who is dedicated to your best interests. In many cases, spouses name one another as executors, which makes sense, given the close relationship of trust between spouses.

However, once the marriage is over, the bonds of trust and love usually no longer remain. In fact, many divorces see former spouses never speaking amicably again. For this reason, every divorced spouse should reexamine their will to ensure that a hostile ex-spouse will not be at the helm during probate. 

Updating the Beneficiaries

Your beneficiaries will receive the portions of your estate assigned to them. However, if you created your estate plan while you were married, you likely have left your former spouse as beneficiary to much, if not all, of your estate’s assets. If you are like many divorcees, you would probably rather your assets go somewhere else. 

To update your beneficiaries, all you need to do is make the appropriate changes in your estate planning documents, such as your will. Using an experienced estate planning attorney will help ensure that your changes are well-thought-out and executed according to the law. 

Updating Any Healthcare Proxies

New York law permits people to designate healthcare proxies to make medical decisions on their behalf in the event of incapacitation. Spouses frequently name one another as healthcare proxies while married, which is a smart move. Healthcare proxies should be people who know you and are familiar with your healthcare issues.

A healthcare proxy should also have your best interests at heart. However, after a divorce, many former spouses no longer concern themselves with one another’s best interests. In such cases, it is important for individuals to switch out their healthcare proxy for someone else more relevant in their lives. 

Keep in mind that some spouses remain as one another’s healthcare proxy even after divorce. They have relationships that allow them to continue trusting each other in these matters. Those who do not have this sort of trust should update their proxies straightaway. 

Updating the Powers of Attorney

If you have granted your former spouse power of attorney in any matter, you should consider whether maintaining this power of attorney is in your best interests. Power of attorney allows a person to make powerful healthcare and financial decisions in someone else’s stead. 

As mentioned, some spouses continue in each others’ lives in positions of trust or confidence and retain decision-making authority over certain matters. However, if you and your former spouse are not in a relationship like this, updating your powers of attorney designations should be at the top of your to-do list. 

Aiello & DiFalco: Safeguarding Your Interests

At Aiello & DiFalco, our family law attorneys work diligently to ensure that your interests and future are protected to the full extent of the law before and after a divorce. If you have been through a divorce in Garden City, NY, our team is ready to meet and discuss revisiting your estate plan so it reflects your new reality. Call for a consultation.

About the Author
I am a partner at Aiello & DiFalco LLP, and my priority for my clients is to guide them through an arduous court case to provide them with the opportunity to write the next chapter in their life. I tailor my approach to each client’s priorities and positions, and to the extent that matters can be predicted, I will always provide a realistic perspective of how the law could be applied to the particular facts and circumstances of a case. Since I thrive on helping people and solving problems, I bring an optimistic and positive approach to practicing in a very difficult area of law. With more than a decade of experience handling hundreds of cases, I have the ability to get results on the issues my clients view as priorities. When cases or certain issues cannot be settled, I have a solid record of success at trials, hearings, and on appeals. Feel free to contact me for a free initial consultation, I am always available to help.