If you’ve recently divorced and haven’t yet revisited your estate plan, or don’t have one, you may be in for some surprises. It is important to review your estate plan to be sure that it does not confer any unintended benefits or rights on your former spouse. Here are some questions to consider:
1. Does your former spouse have access to any jointly owned assets, such as bank accounts, investments or real estate?
2. Is your former spouse still the designated beneficiary of any life insurance policies, IRAs or other retirement plans?
3. If an ERISA plan, was an appropriate ERISA waiver obtained at the time you negotiated your divorce settlement?
4. Did you give your former spouse any powers of attorney or designate him or her as your agent for health care decisions?
5. Did you name your former spouse as a beneficiary of any trusts? Are they irrevocable? If so, do they provide for your spouses’ interest to terminate automatically in the event of divorce? If not, do the trust documents and applicable state law allow you to change beneficiaries or modify the disposition of the trust assets?
6. Does your divorce settlement or judgment address any of these issues?
After a divorce, or any other major life change, such as marriage, birth of a child or death of a family member, you should meet with your estate planning advisor as soon as possible to review your plan. Failure to modify your plan to reflect these changes can lead to unexpected and, in many cases, undesirable results.