estate plan post-divorce

Helpful Things to Consider When Revising Your Estate Plan Post-Divorce

When a marriage ends in divorce, it necessitates a complete re-evaluation of one’s estate plan. Goals, intentions, and priorities often change with this new chapter in life. Revising legal documents and financial instruments ensures your estate is handled appropriately if an unexpected event were to occur.

Examining the Impact of Divorce on Existing Estate Plans

Divorce can greatly alter the effectiveness of wills and financial accounts established during marriage. Upon divorce, wills are often automatically revoked under state law. This poses complications if an outdated will still leaves assets or names an ex-spouse as executor or guardian. Similarly, retaining a former spouse as a beneficiary on financial accounts and life insurance contradicts most individuals’ wishes after separating.

It is essential to audit all estate planning documents and tools, removing an ex-spouse where prudent. Financial institutions and insurance companies should be also notified of any changes made.

Revisiting Key Estate Planning Documents


Create a new will or modify an existing one to fully reflect post-divorce circumstances. Naming new beneficiaries and executors ensures assets transfer according to present wishes. Further considerations around minor children also merit addressing within an updated will.


As with wills, living trusts can require significant adjustment after divorce to appropriately manage trust assets. Distribution instructions, named trustees, and beneficiaries may necessitate revisions. Closely analyze trust assets through the lens of divorce’s impact to discern the most suitable trust alterations.

Advance Directives & Financial Powers of Attorney

Divorce warrants an immediate audit of legal powers granted to a former spouse regarding healthcare and finances. Advance directives like living wills, medical powers of attorney, and financial powers of attorney likely require amending. Consider other individuals better suited to represent your interests in these matters. Ensure documents reflect your updated vision given the change in marital status.

Guardianship Considerations

For divorced parents with minor children, reassessing guardianship designations is critical. This includes named guardians in existing wills and successor guardians in the event of unexpected situations. Select those capable and aligned to your wishes regarding caring for the children.

Areas Warranting Special Attention

Given divorce’s profound impact on individuals and families, certain areas commonly merit extra focus when revising estate plans. Namely, directly addressing what becomes of the former spouse’s role and how children or other family members may be affected are particularly important.

Treatment of the Former Spouse

Carefully scrutinize all legal documents and financial assets currently naming the ex-spouse. In most cases, removal proves judicious regarding rights over assets, beneficiary status, powers previously granted, and any additional privileges conveyed during marriage. Special consideration applies to whether to retain the former spouse as an alternate beneficiary or contingent asset recipient should other bequests fail.

Children and Other Family Members

For divorcing parents, ensuring revised estate planning tools amply provide for minor children remains critically important. Updating guardianship clauses within wills and trusts to appoint new guardians is a priority. Beyond children, assess impacts on other family relationships, updating documents accordingly to still care for key individuals.

Financial and Insurance Considerations

Closely evaluate any life insurance policies and financial assets currently designating the former spouse. Usually prudent to change the beneficiary status on pertinent accounts, including pensions, retirement investments, and life insurance policies established during marriage.

Retirement Accounts & Other Assets

Similarly assess employer pensions, personal retirement savings, and investment holdings. Modify named beneficiaries on accounts as aligned with your revised estate planning aims post-divorce. Review asset division conducted through the divorce proceedings and make additional account changes as necessary in coordination with the decree.

The Legal Process and Considerations

Revising an estate plan elicits important legal considerations regarding the creation of documents, the impact of state law, and working with divorce decrees issued by courts. Navigating these variables often benefits from attorney involvement.

Seeking Legal Expertise

Engaging a legal professional who is well-versed in estate law proves useful when altering wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents after a divorce. Attorneys keep abreast of state-specific regulations and legal precedents in this area of the law.

Alabama Laws and Estate Planning Implications

As we talked about earlier, Alabama statutes automatically revoke wills executed during a marriage that later ends in divorce. The only exception exists if the will itself contains language stating it should remain valid if/when a divorce occurs. This means Alabama courts usually consider pre-divorce wills obsolete. Updates must establish new executors, beneficiaries, and instructions.

Beyond wills, Alabama is not a community property state. This means courts do not necessarily divide assets 50/50 during divorce proceedings. However, decisions regarding asset distribution and beneficiary status under the divorce decree carry binding legal weight. Post-divorce estate planning must align with binding judgments issued under the decree.

Moving Forward: Crafting an Estate Plan for Your New Life

Divorce constitutes a profound life transition that merits a comprehensive estate plan review. As wishes and priorities evolve post-divorce, thoughtfully updating legal documents and financial instruments becomes essential to ensure your legacy stays protected according to your vision. From will and trust revisions to beneficiary adjustments and guardian selections, critical aspects should be re-evaluated.

The attorneys at Stone Crosby have in-depth experience overseeing estate planning needs for those navigating life after a divorce. Contact our office today at (251) 626-6696 to schedule a consultation with a member of our legal team.