Updating Your Will After Divorce
Importance of Revising Your Will Post-Divorce
Divorce is a life-changing event that necessitates a thorough review of your estate plan. Often times, you may wish to revise your will to reflect your current circumstances, such as your new marital status, your financial situation, and even the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities established in your divorce proceeding. If you do not update your will as quickly as possible following your divorce, you may experience unintended consequences from your outdated estate planning. To avoid such unintended scenarios, it's essential to revise your will as soon as possible after your divorce is finalized to accurately reflect your wishes.
Steps to Changing Your Will
Changing your will post-divorce involves several steps, all of which an attorney can review thoroughly during your initial consultation. Generally, you first need to revoke your existing will. In Ohio, divorce automatically revokes any provision in your will that favors your ex-spouse. However, it's still advisable to explicitly revoke your old will to avoid any potential confusion. Then, you should direct an attorney to draft a new will that accurately reflects your current wishes. This may include appointing a new executor and updating your beneficiary designations. Once the new will is drafted, you should review the draft carefully and thoroughly to ensure it meets with your approval. If the draft meets with your approval, you may execute your new will in the presence of two witnesses to make it legally binding.
What Changes Can You Make?
Powers of Attorney
It may be important to modify powers of attorney to designate agents to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated following your divorce proceeding. Like an executor, it is common for most people to name their spouse as their agent under health care and durable powers of attorney. Unfortunately, however, if something happens to you immediately following a divorce proceeding and you only designated a spouse, your power of attorney will be in effect null and void. Accordingly, you may wish to modify your power of attorney to designate a family member or close friend to act on your behalf.
This provision is unique in that you may be able to modify its term during an active divorce proceeding. Before you make any modifications to your estate planning documents during a divorce, it’s always appropriate to first consult with an attorney to make sure that such actions do not violate any mutual or temporary restraining orders set by the court while engaged in active litigation.
One of the many changes you may wish to make following your divorce is to remove your former spouse as a beneficiary in your will. You might choose to replace them with your children, other family members, or even a charity you care strongly about. If you are leaving assets to minor children, you may want to consider setting up a trust in order to designate a trustee to manage assets and name an asset for them. If you do not, it is likely your former spouse will manage assets for your children.
The executor of your will is the person responsible for distributing your assets according to your wishes after your death. In many cases, spouses appoint each other as executors during their marriage. Following a divorce, however, you may instead wish to appoint a trusted friend, family member, or legal professional instead.
If you have minor children, your will should specify who you wish to become their guardian should both parents pass away. In most cases, the surviving parent assumes custody. It’s important to discuss review your Judgment Entry of Divorce and accompanying Parenting Plan with your attorney as this is a term that was likely negotiated or at the very least contemplated during the divorce proceeding itself.
Contact Laubacher & Company for Expert Legal Guidance
If you're navigating the complexities of updating your estate plan after a divorce, remember that you do not have to do so alone. The experienced family law attorneys at Laubacher & Company can assist you through the process, to ensure that your assets are protected, and your wishes are respected. We’re here to support you through not only the difficult process of the divorce, but also to help you make decisions that are informed, fair, and legally sound following the litigation. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.