Estate Planning After a Divorce

Catherine Croft

After a divorce people often wonder: should I change my Will? The answer is: probably.

Working through a divorce is a difficult process full of many decisions. One decision which frequently gets overlooked is the estate plan. Even so, divorce is one of the most important times that an estate plan should be updated. The divorce has likely changed your financial situation, planning objectives, and intended beneficiaries. And there is no better time to update your estate plan than when the divorce has been finalized.

Take a Second Look at Your Documents

Most married persons name their spouses as their executor on their Will.  Your former spouse is probably not who you want as your executor.  The executor’s responsibility is to carry out the terms of your Will or to hold your Power of Attorney. You should look over all of your estate planning documents after a divorce. Things like a Power of Attorney, a Will, an Advance Medical Directive, and Revocable Trusts need to be updated. You should absolutely take the time to update these documents; remember it is your most current version that will be utilized in the event something happens to you.

Draft New Documents

You should always have up to date estate planning documents. Your estate planning documents will also likely need to be changed as your marital status changes.  If you don’t have a Will, Advance Medical Directive, Durable Power of Attorney, and/or Revocable Trust you should have them drafted to reflect the current circumstances in your life.

Add Custody or Guardianship Directives

A parent of minor children should include custody or guardianship directives into the estate plans.  A surviving parent will almost always be the presumed custodian for the child upon the death of the other parent.  So, it is still important to note who your preferred guardian would be in the event that both natural parents are deceased. Even though these wishes are not legally binding, they do carry a large amount of weight in court if neither natural parent is able to care for the minor children.

Change Your Beneficiaries

You should carefully review and consider your named beneficiaries.  Updating your beneficiaries is especially important for your life insurance policies and retirement accounts. It’s important for you to note that a divorce does not always automatically cancel out these beneficiary designations.  So you could quite unintentionally leave everything to your former spouse if you don’t make a change to your intended beneficiary.


At Farrell & Croft, P.C. our attorney, Sharon R. Moss, is experienced in divorce estate planning and probate.  She is committed to providing you with the representation you need and can assist you in identifying your goals and devising the best methods for achieving your objectives. Call her today for an appointment at 703-335-9390.


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