If you’re beginning the divorce process, you may be planning to put off any changes to your estate plan until after your divorce is final. There are some modifications, however, that you can (and maybe should) make as soon as possible.
Other changes will likely need to wait until after the divorce decree is signed and may be affected directly by the terms of your divorce. These are a few of the key estate plan modifications that most divorcing spouses need to consider sooner or later.
Most married couples designate their spouses to be their healthcare proxy. If you have granted your spouse this authority to see that your wishes are carried out as detailed in your healthcare directive or living will, you can designate someone else to fulfill this role at any time. You don’t have to wait until your final divorce decree to make this change.
Your will and other inheritance designations
Although you may want to remove your spouse from your will immediately, it’s important to remember that in Utah, as in most states, you can’t disinherit a current spouse. Even if you remove them from your will, trusts and beneficiary designations, they’re typically entitled to seek an elective share of your “augmented estate” if you were to die while you’re still legally married. This includes property in your name, the probate estate and non-probate assets.
Changes involving your spouse’s inheritance should generally wait until the divorce is final. This also makes sense because you’ll likely be transferring assets between one another as part of the divorce. There may also be court orders that affect your estate plan that will necessitate updates as well.
Every situation is highly unique. You may have a family trust you’ll need to untangle. Depending on how the dynamics of your extended family have changed during this time, you may need to rethink legal guardianship of your children. If you don’t have an estate plan, as a newly single person, it will be more important than ever to put one in place. Whatever the scenario, it’s important to have experienced estate planning guidance as you navigate this major life transition.