If you are going through a divorce, updating your estate becomes a key part of moving on with your life. According to the law, you are legally married until the judge signs the final divorce decree. Thus, should you pass on before finalizing the divorce process, your estranged spouse will be entitled to your estate if you do not update your estate plan.
Most people overlook the importance of updating their estate plans after the divorce. However, failing to do so can have serious legal consequences. For instance, can you imagine a former spouse having the power to decide if and when you should be pulled off life support? Well, this is exactly the type of situation people get into when they fail to update their estate plans following a divorce.
Here are important estate planning documents that you need to update as soon as it becomes apparent that you are headed for divorce:
The financial power of attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone else to make decisions on your behalf when you are incapacitated. This can include the power to sell your assets or make payments on your behalf. The individual you entrust with a power of attorney is expected to act in your best interest at all times, which is why most people pick their spouses for this role.
When the item of your affection (and trust) changes, you must get someone you can trust to take up this role.
The health care power of attorney
A healthcare power of attorney, also known as an advance directive, lets you nominate someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot do so yourself. If you gave your spouse the health care power of attorney, you must strip them of this role when you divorce and, in their place, have someone you can trust assume it. Also, be sure to notify your health care provider of this change.
When you are going through the financial and emotional turmoil that comes with divorce, updating your estate plan might be the last thing on your mind. However, you must take steps to update your estate plan as soon as the divorce process is finalized.