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Do I Need to Update My Will After Getting Divorced?

Signing will

Part of getting divorced is planning for your future without your former spouse, and estate planning is no exception. After getting divorced, you need to update your will and other estate planning documents. Otherwise, your ex could inherit your assets or make important decisions about your future.

Creating a New Will

Most people create a last will and testament around the time they get married or have children. Your will determines how your assets will be distributed after you pass away, and many people leave their belongings to their spouse and children.

After a divorce, you may not want your former spouse to inherit everything you own. Although most states automatically invalidate gifts made to an ex-wife or ex-husband, you will still need to decide who will inherit your belongings if you pass away. Even if you want to leave some things to your former spouse, you will need to specify these wishes in a new will for them to be valid.

As such, you will need to revoke your old will and tear up any copies before creating a new will and testament. In this new document, you can leave property to the people of your choice, including your ex, name an executor, and nominate a guardian to take care of your minor children. Keep in mind that your ex will likely become the guardian of your children in the event of your death or incapacitation, regardless of what you write in your will. If you want to keep your children away from an ex in the event of your death, you will need to litigate domestic abuse, gain full custody, or terminate parental rights while you are still alive.

Though many processes are automatic, you should not rely on an old will after a divorce. The probate court will have to resolve any uncertainty, which could result in family disputes and unfulfilled final wishes.

What Other Documents Should I Update?

In addition to wills, some people use trusts to leave assets to their loved ones after they die. If you have any trusts in your ex’s name, you may want to update them. Because trusts are executed by a trustee, you can use trusts to make conditional gifts. For example, you can give your children trusts that activate when they turn 18 or graduate college — or leave behind a trust to help your ex pay for childcare in the event of your passing.

Other documents you may need to update include life insurance policies and retirement accounts, where your ex may be named as the beneficiary. If you gave your former spouse (financial) power of attorney, you may need to revoke their title, as well. You can also use an end-of-life plan to put someone besides your ex in charge of your burial and memorial and update your health care directives and (medical) power of attorney, so your former spouse is not the one who decides whether or not to “pull the plug” in emergency medical situations.

Finally, you may want to change your legal name after a divorce, which means you will need to update everything from your driver’s license to your passport.

Get Legal Help

Creating a binding estate plan is important, especially after a divorce. If you need help with family law and/or estate planning, Rech Law, P.C. is here to help. There are few things more sensitive than your family and your future, but our highly awarded and reputable team is ready to provide skilled, compassionate representation at your time of need.

Our channels of communication are always open, and we make sure you have realistic expectations from the start.

Call us at (704) 659-0007 or contact us online today to get to know our team and explore your legal options.