Thankfully, most of my clients come to me in connection with their happy occasions – events like having a child, buying a home, and starting a business. Unfortunately however, divorces are a part of life, and upon getting divorced, it is so important for one to have their estate plan reviewed. Having just gone through a divorce myself, I know that it’s a difficult time with emotional distress, mental challenges and financial obligations. Reviewing your will is often the last thing you want to think about. But this major life change is one of the most important times to update your estate plan.
Under Pennsylvania law, a spouse is automatically eliminated from most elements of an estate plan upon filing for a divorce and when grounds for divorce have been established. Your spouse is deemed to have pre-deceased you under the terms of your will so that any assets would pass to your named successor beneficiaries. Financial and healthcare powers of attorney naming your spouse are deemed invalid. And most, though not all, assets passing by a beneficiary designation form (ex: life insurance, IRAs, etc.) would pass to the contingent beneficiary.
Even still, there are a number of considerations that need to be thought through. If your spouse is no longer named as your financial or healthcare agent, who should take on this role? A parent? A sibling? A best friend? If you have minor children, your spouse will still likely be designated as the primary Guardian (unless unfit as a parent due to abuse, addiction or some other reason). But, you should be rethinking who should be named as the successor Guardian if your spouse or ex-spouse dies before you or cannot serve. Assuming that you are leaving assets in trust for minor children, you will need to have a Trustee named – someone you are comfortable managing your assets for your children. It is also important to think about who else should be named in your will, both as Executors to manage your estate and as contingent beneficiaries. Some retirement accounts will also not automatically pass to your named contingent beneficiaries. You must affirmatively update these beneficiary designation forms.
Assuming you are further down the road and are contemplating remarriage, or have already gotten remarried, mixed families raise another set of issues that need to be fully considered. How do you make sure that you and your spouse provide for each other while at the same time, protecting assets for your children? Should you have a prenuptial agreement, and if you have one, what does that mean for your will? Should your assets be jointly owned or kept separate?
Going through a divorce is not easy. And thinking about your estate plan is probably the last thing you want to do while dealing with a divorce. The Law Office of Andrew Gavrin has experience in this situation and is here to make this process as easy as possible for you so that you can have confidence that your needs are being protected and you can focus on moving forward. You can find more information at GavrinLaw.com or contact me at email@example.com or 484.416.5740.
Andy Gavrin, Esq. is an estate planning attorney. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School, Wharton School of Business, and Cornell University, he lives in Villanova with his three daughters, and serves as Vice President of the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners. Contact him about your estate plan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 484.416.5740. The information provided in this article does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials are for general informational purposes only. Note that information may not constitute the most up-to-date legal or other information.