We can plan for some of life’s big changes, but others can come as a complete surprise.
For example, we can anticipate that we will eventually pass away and therefore create an estate plan, with documents such as a will and power of attorney. This way, we rest easy with the knowledge that our spouse, children and other loved ones are cared for when we die and that our end-of-life wishes will be met.
However, we might never anticipate after creating that estate plan that we might divorce our spouse. Divorce sometimes comes as a complete surprise, and we do not always know what to do in the aftermath.
One thing to keep in mind if you divorce is the impact your dissolution will have on the estate plan you created while married.
Will your former spouse inherit?
New Jersey Statutes section 3b:3-14 states that unless your will, a prenuptial agreement or a court order expressly states otherwise, if you divorce any inheritance you made to your former spouse in your will or revocable trust is revoked. If you had named your former spouse as your executor or power of attorney, these designations are also revoked.
While your former spouse may be revoked from your will per law, the law does not address beneficiary designations in other accounts such as retirement accounts, financial accounts and life insurance policies.
You might want to remove your former spouse as a beneficiary to these accounts and designate someone else as beneficiary. This way, your former spouse will not be the recipient of these funds and payouts when you pass away. Note that if you try to change these beneficiary designations prior to your divorce, you may need your spouse to agree to the change.
Death may be an inevitable part of life, but most of us who are happily married have no plans to get divorced. Still, no one knows what the future will bring. Divorce may be in your future and if so, it could affect parts of your estate plan.