Divorce: Estate Planning Steps

Destroy Old Documents: If you have not already destroyed old powers of attorney, health proxies or other documents naming your ex do so. Even if the divorce automatically makes those documents void, why tempt anyone. Do you want your ex to be holding an original signed health proxy authorizing him to pull the plug if you are hospitalized? This is a tricky step since there are often documents that are not obvious, such as a bank power of attorney form for one of your accounts your ex signed years ago that is on file at the bank and for which no one had a copy.

Sign new Documents:  Usually about the last thing anyone wants to do after a divorce is hire a lawyer or spend more money on legal fees. But you really need to update all of your documents. Frequently powers of attorney, wills and other documents name an ex-spouse, an ex-spouse’s family or friends that have sided with your ex. Revise you’re your documents and name people as fiduciaries you can trust to take care of you and respect your wishes.

Revise Beneficiary Designations: If your ex is named as beneficiary of your pension plan he/she might vary well inherit the plan if you die. Don’t count on state law or the fact you’re divorced to change this. Sign new beneficiary designation forms.

Address College Savings: If your ex is the account owner listed on your child’s 529 college savings plan he/she can pull the money out at any time. Be sure to get a neutral party listed as account owner. Better yet, you might be able to name a trust with co-trustees as the account owner.

Monitor Life Insurance: Most divorces include a requirement that one spouse provide the other with life insurance coverage, but too few divorce agreements address how that coverage should be monitored. Obtain copies of proof of payment and if possible the right to periodically insist on and receive an in force illustration of the policy so you can verify that it is viable. Address the type of insurance coverage required and the amount. Your ex could buy the cheapest which is one year term. But if he develops a health issue in later years the coverage will become unavailable.

Property and Casualty Insurance: It is common in many divorces for some co-owned property to continue. For example, one of you might retain the marital residence until the youngest child attains age 18. If you’re a co-owner be sure your name is listed on the insurance policy for the house.

Investments: Revise your investment allocations. Most post-divorce portfolios are a mess. Don’t delay, get asset reallocated in a manner that works for you.

Thanks to Deana Balahtsis, Esq. a New York City attorney specializing in Family, Matrimonial and Adoption Law.

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