Divorce is tough. It’s a difficult time emotionally, and you have a lot to do as you begin a new life after the marriage. One of those “to-do” items should always be to reevaluate your estate plan. If you need an estate planning attorney in Okaloosa County, Walton County, or the surrounding area, get in touch with The Wheeler Firm today.
While the divorce is pending, and before the judge divides your assets and liabilities in a divorce judgment, your current spouse will maintain certain rights to marital assets. In Florida, those assets and liabilities will be divided through the divorce court. You cannot take those rights away through an estate plan, but your estate plan priorities will likely change radically as the divorce is finalized. As a result, you need to create a revised estate plan to distribute your assets after the divorce. Below are five things you need to do:
- Update your Capacity Plan. If you are injured and heavily medicated or unconscious, who will make health related decisions for you? Who will manage your assets and debts if you can’t handle matters for yourself? You may have a power of attorney and a living will, but the odds are that you previously named your estranged spouse as the decision maker. During a divorce, and after the divorce, this obviously is not desirable. You should reevaluate your capacity plan with your estate planning attorney to make sure you have the right person in place to make decisions for you when you need them most. These documents can also be used to nominate a person to serve as your legal guardian, if you are found to be incapacitated by a Florida court in a guardianship proceeding.
- Update your Last Will and Testament. You cannot disinherit a spouse, but once you file for divorce, it is unlikely you will want your spouse to inherit property you obtain after the divorce. You need to reconsider your plan to dispose of your estate at death, and in all likelihood, you’ll need to nominate a new personal representative to administer your estate. This can all be done through a new Last Will and Testament. After a divorce, most people want one of their children to serve as a personal representative. They usually have some knowledge of the assets and liabilities already, and can efficiently process the Will through the probate court.
- Amend your Trust. Do you have a revocable trust to hold and manage your assets, and pass those assets on to beneficiaries at death? If so, who is designated as the trustee? As with the other aspects of your estate plan, you should evaluate your plan to ensure that the terms of the trust agreement, the beneficiaries, and the trustee are consistent with your wishes after the divorce.
- Update your Beneficiary Designations: At death, many assets flow to children or other beneficiaries through the terms of contracts. For example, a CD may have a payable on death (“POD”) component, or an IRA may pass to a beneficiary under the terms of the account. These designations are a great way to avoid the hassle and cost of a probate proceeding, and you can change the beneficiaries of those assets upon your death. So take a look at them as the divorce is finalized and make sure you have designated the correct individuals to receive those assets.
- Repeat the Above Steps if you Remarry: Individuals often remarry after a divorce, and finding another companion is a joyous occasion. However, make sure to repeat the above steps if you get married again. For positive reasons, it is often desirable to reevaluate your estate plan and nominate a new spouse to help if you are incapacitated, and to name your new spouse as the beneficiary of your estate.
At The Wheeler Firm, we can utilize our extensive divorce and estate planning experience to help you understand your options for an estate plan after a Florida divorce, including what to do if you remarry. We have offices in Okaloosa County and Walton County to serve clients in Northwest Florida. Give us a call at (850) 613-6923, or get in touch with us today to get started!