Divorce concept with gavel and wedding rings

Estate Planning and Divorce 

Law Office of Rodney Gould Feb. 1, 2023

Going through a divorce is an emotionally taxing experience. Often, individuals are so focused on the process of untangling all the details of their lives that they don’t consider updating their estate planning documents. However, it is important to understand how your divorce proceedings can affect your estate plan and why it is necessary to make changes accordingly.  

Updating your estate plan during or after divorce proceedings is a tricky matter. Contacting an attorney can help alleviate some of the stresses associated with managing one’s estate plan post-divorce while also ensuring that all legal matters are properly taken care of. Rodney Gould is an experienced estate planning attorney in Los Angeles, California, who serves clients throughout the state, including in Sherman Oaks, Beverly Hills, Studio City, and West Hollywood.  

How Divorce Affects Your Estate Plan  

When getting divorced, the first step should be to review your existing estate plan documents, such as wills and trusts. During a divorce, these documents may become invalid or outdated if they name your soon-to-be ex-spouse as a beneficiary of any assets or property. If your will becomes invalid after your divorce, your money and property will be distributed in accordance with California’s intestate succession law, according to the California Department of Justice.  

You should also take time to review any power of attorney documents that have been set up in advance, as these will need to be updated as well. Making sure that all of the necessary changes are made before the divorce is finalized will make the process smoother.  

In addition to updating your existing estate plan documents, it’s vital to look into beneficiary designations for insurance policies and other assets that you may have set up prior to the divorce. As with other aspects of estate planning during a divorce, it’s best to get these updated if needed before finalizing the divorce proceedings so that there is no confusion later on down the road.  

Updating Your Estate Plan After a Divorce  

The estate planning documents that you may need to review and update during or after a divorce include:  

Last Will and Testament  

If you have made a will before your divorce, you need to make sure that any provisions relating to your spouse are no longer valid. This includes removing them as an executor of your estate, beneficiary on any accounts, or beneficiary in any life insurance policies. Your former spouse should not have access to nor be able to benefit from anything you own after your divorce has been finalized.  

Powers of Attorney and Advanced Directives  

It is essential to review and update any powers of attorney and advanced directives related to health care decisions in order for them to accurately reflect your wishes for end-of-life care and medical decision-making. If these documents name your former spouse as an agent or representative, it is essential that you remove them from those roles and select someone else who can act in accordance with your wishes should the need arise.  

Retirement Accounts and Life Insurance  

Your retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s, IRAs, annuities, and others, may be subject to division during the divorce process. However, it is vital to remember that they may still name your former spouse as the primary beneficiary on those accounts unless you update this information. The same applies to life insurance policies. Make sure that you check who the beneficiary is on each policy after going through a divorce because this person may be entitled to receive money from those policies upon death unless it has been updated accordingly.  

Guardianship for Minor Children 

If you have minor children from the marriage or other relationships outside of marriage and named guardians for them in your will prior to the divorce process, it is important to review these provisions as well because any guardianships named for both parents may no longer apply after the divorce has been finalized. When selecting guardianship for minor children during or after a separation or divorce situation, make sure that you carefully consider how best suited each individual would be at providing children with physical care as well as emotional support throughout their lives. 

Look to Reliable Legal Assistance   

Updating estate planning documents during or after a divorce can seem like an overwhelming task, but it can also provide peace of mind knowing that all legal documents reflect your current wishes and desires. To ensure accuracy in all areas related to estate planning post-divorce, consider consulting with an attorney at the Law Office of Rodney Gould to walk you through each document that needs to be updated. Reach out today for a free consultation.