Divorce is a messy and uncomfortable situation. Emotions are high and there are so many moving pieces and paperwork to keep track of throughout the process. One very important thing that can get lost in the mix is updating your will after your divorce. Updating your will is probably the farthest thing from your mind throughout the settlement, but it’s something that you need to do as soon as you can. Here is what you need to keep in mind when updating your will after a divorce.
Tear up your old will
The easiest way to get rid of an old will is to literally just tear it up. This will force you to make a new will that reflects your current wishes. You can make a will yourself using basic will templates, will creation software, or finding a blank form online. Or, you can hire a lawyer to help you write a new will. The decision is yours, but the key thing is to have one created that is legally binding.
A will affects three main things: your beneficiaries for property and assets, naming someone to execute your will, and listing a guardian to take care of any minor children you have.
When people get married, they generally create their will. By default, their spouse is the sole beneficiary of their assets, property, and children. However, in a divorce, you probably do not want this to be the case moving forward. Creating a new will allows you to pick new beneficiaries and alternates if for some reason your beneficiary doesn’t outlive you.
Most states consider a divorce an action that nullifies any gifts given to an ex-spouse. This means that if you didn’t update you will, there’s a chance that your ex-spouse wouldn’t be the beneficiary anyways. However, you don’t want to leave that up to the state. Most states require the divorce to be finalized before the gifts are revoked. So, if you were in the process of getting a divorce and suddenly died, your ex-spouse would still be the beneficiary.
Plus, if you haven’t updated your will and the state revokes the rights of your ex-spouse, your will is now in the hands of the state (assuming you didn’t name an alternative beneficiary). All in all, it’s better (and easier) if you just create a new will after a divorce.
Don’t forget to name a new executor or personal representative for your will. You most likely do not want your ex-spouse in charge of your estate. It’s best to update this section of your will, too.
Your children are the most important thing in your life. You don’t want to leave anything up to chance when it comes to them. After a divorce, you may want to rethink who is the guardian of your children if anything were to happen. Are they your ex-spouse’s family members or friends? Make sure you are comfortable with who would take care of your children after you’re gone.
Power of attorney
While you’re updating your executor, you’ll also want to update your power of attorney. You’ll need to update your healthcare power of attorney as well as your financial power of attorney.
Updating your will after a divorce may not be the most exciting thing to do, but it’s vital. It will give you peace of mind knowing that if anything were to happen to you, your will is updated and accurate. Divorce is a tricky subject and you may not want to deal with all the details and paperwork of creating a new will. You can always reach out to a will lawyer Allentown, Pennsylvania turns to for help. The important thing is that your will is updated after a divorce.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at Klenk Law for their knowledge about changing a will and estate planning.