During a divorce, there is a lot of paperwork to file, and there are a lot of issues that need to be resolved. Examples include division of marital property, alimony/spousal support, child support, and child custody/visitation. But after a divorce is finalized, there are still some loose ends to tie up. And one area that should be revisited is your estate plan.
After a divorce, it is very likely that there are parts of your estate plan that need to be updated. Here are some areas to examine:
Last Will and Testament
Alabama Code Section 43-8-137 addresses revisions to a will after a divorce or annulment:
If after executing a will the testator is divorced or his marriage annulled, the divorce or annulment revokes any disposition or appointment of property made by the will to the former spouse, any provision conferring a general or special power of appointment on the former spouse, and any nomination of the former spouse as executor, trustee, or guardian, unless the will expressly provides otherwise…
So, according to Alabama law, your divorce will automatically revoke the disposition of any property from your estate to your ex-spouse and that property will pass as if your ex-spouse had not survived you. And if your ex-spouse was appointed as executor of your estate, this appointment is revoked as well.
Even though Alabama law imposes certain changes to a will after a divorce, it would be a mistake to rely solely on state law and assume that everything is in order. There are several reasons why you may still need to revise your will post-divorce:
- Name new beneficiaries. It is a good idea to look at the different heirs/beneficiaries in your will and decide how you want your property distributed now that your ex-spouse has been removed. You may want to change some of your beneficiaries because of the divorce. For example, if your ex-spouse’s child is one of the current beneficiaries, you may want to remove them from your will.
- Appoint a new executor. Since your ex-spouse is no longer the executor of your estate, you will need to find another trusted individual to put into this role.
- Guardianship for minor children. In many instances, the ex-spouse is the person who raises any minor children that the divorced couple has together. But what if you have children from a different relationship and your ex-spouse is the one appointed to become their guardian? Or what if you do not believe that your ex-spouse is a fit parent? These are a couple of situations in which you may need to revise your will accordingly.
- Comply with the terms and conditions of the divorce decree. Although Alabama law removes an ex-spouse from an individual’s will, there could be conditions of the divorce settlement that state that your ex-spouse is to receive certain property if you die first. You need to make sure that your will complies with the terms and conditions of your settlement.
Similar to wills, trusts should also be reviewed and revised if necessary after a divorce. For example, if your ex-spouse and their children from another relationship are listed as beneficiaries of a living trust, you might want to remove them. But again, be sure you are in compliance with the terms and conditions of the divorce as you make these decisions.
There are some assets that pass without a will or trust, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and payable on death bank accounts. Be sure that you update the beneficiary designations on these accounts to reflect your wishes as well as the terms and conditions of your divorce decree.
Powers of Attorney
If your spouse is power of attorney for financial or healthcare, these designations automatically end if either spouse files for divorce or annulment. If you do not take any further action, the POA transfers to a successor agent if you have one named in the document(s). You will want to review this, however, because you want to ensure that you have designated the right person(s) to manage your financial and/or healthcare decisions in the event that you are no longer able to.
Contact Our Reputable Southern Alabama Estate Planning Lawyers
After a divorce has been finalized, it is always a good idea to revisit your estate plan and make any updates that the marriage dissolution necessitated. When doing so, it is best to work with experienced estate planning attorneys who also have an in-depth understanding of divorce and family law.
For skilled legal guidance with estate planning and family law in southern Alabama, contact Stone Crosby, P.C. Call our Daphne, AL office today at (251) 626-6696 or message us online to set up a personalized consultation with one of our attorneys.