We’ve all seen the news of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s heart-wrenching breakup. We don’t speculate as to the cause of the breakup, but what we can expand upon is how this will affect them both as well as their children legally if they had named each other in their estate plans. Usually, after the expense, time and emotional turmoil of a divorce, the last thing on one’s mind is estate planning. The reality is that immediately after a divorce is the best time to reevaluate your estate plan before you forget. In fact, rather than being difficult, revising your Will after divorce can be empowering and make you feel like your life has just restarted and you are more in control. Most importantly, it helps to prevent your assets from being distributed in ways that you do not intend.

The following are 4 steps you should take to revise your Will after a divorce is finalized.

  1. Revoke the Old Will and Make a New One

Begin with revoking the old Will by destroying it or simply stating in the new Will that you have revoked all prior Wills.

The law in most states indicates that a divorce automatically revokes any gifts to an ex-spouse but it is not prudent to rely on the state law as it can change and only takes effect after the final decree of divorce. If the divorce is still in process, the gifts are still valid. But if the court invalidates the transfer of property to an ex-spouse, it is passed to an alternate beneficiary. In case you had not named one, the properties are passed to a residuary beneficiary. Otherwise, the property is passed to the closest relative alive as if there were no Will

A major reason for revising your Will after divorce is to prevent the above complications. Make a new Will that reflects your current wishes including the entities or persons you wish to inherit your property as well as the person you wish to be an executor of your estate. Also, name a guardian of your minor children. Keep in mind, if your ex-spouse is still alive, he or she is automatically awarded custody of the children upon your passing. Only if the surviving parent is unfit or both parents are deceased will the court award custody of the children to a guardian. If for some reasons you don’t want your ex-spouse to have custody, write down the reasons and attach them to the Will for the court to consider.

  1. Update Beneficiary Designations

Wills may not cover all your assets, as some assets pass outside the Will to beneficiaries. Be sure to change the beneficiary designations for:

  • Pay on death bank accounts
  • Life insurance policies
  • Transfer on death brokerage accounts
  • Retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and IRAs

Request a new document from the bank, employer, or Brokerage Company and update the name of the person to inherit this asset.

Do not assume that the terms of the divorce or the law will revoke the above designations. Certain plans such as an employer-provided life insurance, pension, and retirement accounts are governed by federal law which states that the funds should be given to the named beneficiary no matter what the law says. This means unless you make the changes, your ex-spouse may still inherit the funds.

  1. Make New Powers of Attorney

Power of attorney is another big part of estate planning. It gives an individual the authority to act for you. You should have two powers of attorney, one for financial issues and another for medical matters. If you had given your ex-spouse power of attorney, revoke them and name another person by filing new documents with your lawyer.  

  1. Other Considerations to Make

If you parents are alive, inform them about the divorce and talk to them about estate planning. They may have named your ex-spouse as a beneficiary and they would want to make changes as well.

Also, be sure to change any documents with a title document including boats, motor vehicles, real estate, to reflect either you or your spouse as the owner.

Marinaccio Law serves clients in business disputes and transactions, civil litigation,estate planning and probate and trust administration, landlord-tenant matters, and real estate litigation and transactions. Whether it a dispute on a real estate matter, setting up a small business, filing for bankruptcy, or creating an estate plan, Marinaccio Law will provide individual attention in helping to achieve its clients’ goals. Give us a call today and we’ll discuss the best options for you and your specific situation. Phone: (818) 839-5220 or visit our website at http://marinacciolaw.wpengine.com .