Estate Planning

Estate Plan Changes During a Divorce

There are many elements of your life that change when going through an event like divorce. It's essential to update your estate plans to reflect your current wishes for your assets. Your spouse can obtain legal rights over you and your estate in the event of your death or incapacitation before the divorce's finalization. 

You may also need to address other things, like your current spouse appointed as your health care proxy, property acquired together, or a joint trust for your property.  It’s essential for your wishes to be heard to prevent uncertainties and confusion later on. 

Elements to Change   

Update Your Healthcare Proxy  

A healthcare proxy allows you to name a person as your agent for future healthcare decisions. Your agent will make these decisions for you, including decisions about pain management, treatment plans, or even euthanasia if you can no longer make decisions on your own.  

Many people name their spouse as their proxy agent. A divorce most likely changes your decision to name this person for this position as it involves personal decisions regarding your health in the future.  

Change Your Power of Attorney  

Naming someone as your power of attorney gives them access to all your accounts and assets. In most states, when you name your spouse as your power of attorney, it revokes when either of you files for divorce. The designated successor takes your spouse's place as your agent instead of annulling the whole document. Your spouse does have access to the estate and can act on it until the divorce's legal filing, so it's up to you to replace this role when you want that ability cut off.  

Check What Documents Are Modifiable  

The rules and regulations regarding estate planning vary from state to state. Some states bar you from changing your beneficiary in life insurances, retirement accounts, or even pensions until the divorce is final. It's vital to understand your particular state's regulations to determine which documents in the estate plan are modifiable during a divorce.  

Keep Your Will Up-to-Date  

The rules regarding the validity of your will after divorce depend on your state. Some states revoke the whole document, while some states interpret it as if your ex predeceases you.  


A divorce requires a few changes to your will, the extent of which also depends on your state. For instance, a few states allow the will to stand as is containing conditions with your ex-spouse you may want to be changed.  

Updating a will can be emotionally taxing, especially during or immediately after a divorce. Setting up a new will as early on as possible can allow you to resolve any uncertainties within your end-of-life plans, if your state allows it.  

Decide on Asset Possession Between You and Your Spouse  

The decision to leave assets to your spouse is not entirely up to you. Even though you can disinherit them from the estate plan, your spouse can still contest the will in some scenarios. Depending on how long you were together, your ex may have a legal right to some of your pension.  

Disinheriting your previous partner forces contention of the will in court, so it's better to review their legal rights before deciding what to leave your spouse.  

Review Your Prenuptial (or Postnuptial) Agreement  

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements state how a couple divides their assets if their marriage dissolves. It also allows you to predetermine alimony amount or even eliminate it when either of the partners agrees.  

It's necessary to review these documents before making any decisions regarding the splitting of your assets. Any updates or additions to your estate plan should be consistent with the prenup (or postnup) agreements already in effect.  

Amend Your Trust  

A trust lets you pass on your estate to your beneficiaries which is especially helpful if you have minor children.   

Revocable trusts allow you to revoke or amend them as long as the terms mentioned are satisfied. You can change your trustee so that your spouse cannot control your assets if your state permits the amendment of the revocable trust. You can't alter it without consulting your spouse if you created the trust together.  

Turn to Experts for Review and Protection of Assets  

It's advisable to review and update your will over an estate periodically following the changes happening in your life. It's essential to ensure you make decisions keeping in mind the best interests of your children and family when estate planning through a divorce. You may also have to revisit these documents after the finalization of the divorce.  

Complete Wills can ensure you and your estate's protection and provide you guided forms for your plans. All of our documents are legally binding, state-specific, and created by our experienced team of attorneys. Keep your estate up to date and protected from anything life throws your way. 

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