Estate Planning and Divorce

Updating Estate Planning Documents Upon Divorce

It’s a commonly known fact that about half of marriages will end in divorce. Certain matters are easily overlooked during this stressful process, but updating estate planning documents should not be one of them.

Under current Florida law, upon dissolution of marriage, any inheritances that would have gone to an ex-spouse will be nullified. This is true of documents such as wills and trusts, and also of certain “non-probate assets.” Non-probate assets pass to a named individual upon the grantor’s death, and may consist of property such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts and pay-on-death accounts. Pay-on-death is a designation that may be added to bank accounts, such as checking or savings accounts, or other monetary instruments like certificates of deposit or U.S. treasury bonds.

And while documents giving the ex-spouse other legal authority, like as a trustee, health care surrogate, or power of attorney, are also dissolved, certain assets (such as “joint” accounts) are not changed without further actions on the part of the owners.

So while the provisions of Florida law effectively disinherit and remove powers from a former spouse in large part, estate planning documents and financial asset designations should still be updated when a divorce is finalized. If no one is named in the place of the ex-spouse, the assets may go to an individual who was never intended to receive them.

Divorce is a major life change and updating estate planning documents is an important part of creating a new life and moving on. It’s always recommended to consult with an experienced trusts and estates attorney to make necessary changes to these important documents during the divorce process.