As a general rule, most if not all of your ex-spouse’s rights in and to your property and assets are terminated upon becoming divorced. However, in addition to certain limited exceptions to that rule, updating estate planning documents is good practice. Changing the ownership of your property, bank and investment accounts, as well as beneficiary designations, will clarify your intentions for you and your family should you become incapacitated and upon your death, and avoid having your ex-spouse taking advantage of the situation if something should happen to you.
- Power of attorney – If you are incapacitated, your ex-spouse does not have a legal right to handle your financial affairs or medical decisions, but you should update your power of attorney and designate a family member you can trust.
- Will/Trust – In most cases an ex-spouse is by law deemed to have died for purposes of your current Will and/or Trust and will not inherit money from you even if you do not take his or her name out of your current documents. But to avoid misunderstandings and to keep your ex-spouse from meddling with your affairs, your estate plan should be updated to ensure your assets are handled the way you want.
- Trust for Children – In case you die while your children or other loved ones are very young or immature, you have the option of securing your money and property in Trust so that your ex-spouse does not have direct or indirect access to their inheritance.
- Your Parent’s Estate Documents – Their documents might be relevant to you. If your parent(s) are elderly, in poor health and/or have already died and may leave money or property for you, it may impact you and your family now or in the future.
- Deed for Real Estate – The most recently recorded deed(s) for real property should be reviewed. Determine if there have been other deeds signed but not recorded, and destroy the original(s).
- Business Agreements – including buy-sell agreements, should be reviewed. Your obligations, or your ex-spouse’s rights, should be identified and if appropriate nullified by signing resolutions and other legal instruments. Original stock certificates should be secured, and voided if appropriate.
- Beneficiary Designations – for retirement plans and life insurance should be reviewed and updated. Your ex-spouse may need to sign off on certain retirement plan beneficiary designations. If your children are minors or subject to your ex-spouse’s influence, naming them as beneficiary may give your ex-spouse indirect influence over the money. Consider a Trust for your children.
- Joint Bank and Investment Accounts – Your ex-spouse should be removed from any joint accounts, and be sure to double check for “Transfer on Death” (TOD) designations which are sometimes used to transfer accounts to heirs upon your death (your spouse may be on the TOD).
- Life Insurance – If your spouse is required to maintain a life insurance policy for you, be sure you receive directly from the life insurance company duplicate notices and that you regularly confirm that no changes are made to the policy or beneficiary designations.
- Safe Deposit Box – Make sure your ex-spouse does not have access to it.
- Burial Plots – Your ex-spouse should relinquish rights in burial plots or funeral contracts.
If you have questions concerning the steps needed to protect your estate prior to or after entry of your Judgment of Divorce, any of our ADAM attorneys would be happy to talk to you or refer you to an estate planning specialist.
About ADAM (American Divorce Association for Men)
The American Divorce Association for Men (ADAM) is a group of highly qualified attorneys who advocate for men’s rights in divorce, child custody and parenting time, paternity, support, property settlement, post judgment modifications, and other family law matters. Since 1988, ADAM has been aggressive, diligent, and uncompromising when representing their clients. A team of compassionate and skilled family law attorneys, ADAM is dedicated to being Michigan’s leading divorce attorneys for men.