A divorce has a way of rippling out into all the different aspects of your life. From your relationship with your children to your interaction with your co-workers, it can seem like just about everything changes during and after a divorce. You may feel so eager to get back to your life as you knew it or envisioned it that you overlook one important change that isn't officially part of divorce proceedings.
Chances are good that if you have a last will or estate plan, it involves your spouse in many different areas. Obviously, your former spouse's inclusion in an estate plan after a divorce can prove problematic.
From issues with whether they'll have your best interests at heart to concerns about the validity of the will itself, there are many reasons to revisit your estate plan after divorce.
Remove your spouse as beneficiary, executor or trustee
People may assign a lot of responsibility to their spouse in an estate plan or last will. They also tend to allocate items of significant emotional value to their spouse, such as family heirlooms.
After divorce, you are more likely to want those assets to go to members of your family or your children. You may also have to review which assets you retained or lost in the divorce and adjust the will accordingly.
You also probably don't want your ex managing a position of responsibility for your estate. This is particularly true when it comes to a living will. If your spouse has power of attorney over financial or medical issues for you in the event of incapacitation, selecting someone new to serve in that role is critical.
Don't forget your kids
If you have custody of your children, you should make certain that you assign guardianship in your last will. While your ex can probably assume custody, having that protection in place is critical for the well-being of your children.
An updated, accurate will is more likely to protect your legacy
You may think that adjusting your last will isn't truly necessary. In many cases, probate judges will look at the date of the document and the life circumstances if prompted. In other words, if other family members demonstrate to the judge that you created the last well prior to the divorce and didn't update it, that may invalidate your last will as it stands.
If you went through the trouble of creating an estate plan or last will, it's likely because you have a legacy you want to leave behind. Failing to update your last will after a divorce could mean invalidating your wishes and running the risk of losing control of the assets you leave behind. Sitting down with an attorney who understands estate and probate law in New York can help you protect your wishes and your legacy.