As if going through a divorce is not difficult enough emotionally and financially, the process of separating two people’s lives raises the issue of future planning. If you are divorcing, have you considered revising your existing Will, Power of Attorney, or Living Will? If you not, you should.
If you have a Power of Attorney, Living Will or Health Care Directive which identifies your spouse as the agent, you should consult with an experienced attorney about revoking these documents. The filing of a divorce complaint renders these documents invalid. However, your financial institutions and medical providers most likely are not aware that a divorce complaint has been filed, and if they do not know a divorce complaint has been filed, they will not know that your Power of Attorney, Living Will or Health Care Directive is invalid.
Following the filing of a divorce complaint, you should immediately notify all financial institutions in which you have an account and notify your medical providers that you are revoking your Power of Attorney, Living Will or Health Care Directive. You should then have new documents prepared identifying a new agent for each.
With the filing of a divorce complaint, you also should have a new Will prepared. The filing of a divorce complaint will not invalidate your existing Will, but it will limit the ability of your spouse to act as your Executor. You will want to review your existing Will with your attorney to ensure that the terms reflect your actual wishes, given the pending divorce.
Until the entry of a grounds order in the divorce, your ability to dispose of assets which are considered marital is limited. However, you are able to identify an Executor of your choosing.
If you executed a Will during the marriage you may have identified a guardian to care for your children in the event of your and your spouse’s death; now that you are going through a divorce, that guardian may no longer be appropriate. If you fail to execute a new Will, the guardian in your current Will will remain as your child(ren)s guardian.
Your current Will most likely provides that a trust be established for your children. Is the named trustee the same person you would want handling the trust now that you are going through a divorce? You must have a Will prepared in order to ensure that your wishes are clear regarding how your assets are distributed, who takes care of your child(ren) in the event something happens to you and the other parent, and who manages any trust established for your children.
Do not wait until the divorce is finalized to revise your estate planning documents or have them prepared in the first place. Too much is at stake to leave these vitally important issues up to chance.
If you have questions about how filing for divorce may affect your estate planning, call the experienced Pennsylvania family law attorneys at Williams Family Law at 215-340-2207.