In many ways, marriage can be viewed as a financial partnership. Over the course of your marriage, you and your spouse may:
- Comingle finances in a joint bank account
- Purchase a house together
- Share health insurance benefits
- File income taxes jointly
- Share the same credit card accounts
- Contribute to major financial purchases such as cars and other luxury items
As you go through a divorce, you will need to take all the important steps necessary to break this financial partnership so that you can move forward in your newly single life. While closing joint bank accounts and removing your ex as an authorized user on your credit cards are obvious actions that you will take as soon as possible, there may be other important things that slip your mind during the stressful divorce process. One of the most commonly overlooked actions is updating your estate planning documents.
When you draft estate planning documents while married, it’s common for your spouse to play a major role in your plans. Unless you want your ex to remain a beneficiary in your will, have a say in health-related decisions in the event that you become incapacitated, or receive some of your retirement assets, you will need to update your estate planning documents to reflect your post-divorce wishes.
After your divorce, review your estate planning documents to see if any changes need to be made. In particular, pay attention to the following:
- Wills and trusts – If your ex was named as the executor of your will or the trustee in your trust, you will most likely want to change these designations so that someone else holds these responsibilities moving forward. In addition, you will need to remove your ex-spouse as a beneficiary if you no longer want him or her to receive any of your assets.
- Powers of attorney/advance health care directives – These important documents give another individual the power to make decisions regarding your financial, health care, and end-of-life considerations in the event that you become incapacitated and are no longer able to express these wishes yourself. If your ex is currently the person responsible for making these decisions, you should change this designation. In the event that a tragic accident or illness places you on life support, do you really want your ex deciding whether to pull the plug?
- Pensions/IRAs/insurance policies – If you’ve named your spouse as a beneficiary for a pension fund, life insurance policy or retirement account, you’ll need to change the designated beneficiary if you no longer want these benefits to go to your ex. Changing your will is not sufficient. You must also make the changes directly to these policies and accounts.
- Titles to large assets – Review the title certificates to real estate property, vehicles and other major assets to ensure they reflect the updated ownership terms agreed upon during the divorce.
Les Martin has been handling divorce and family law matters for individuals on Long Island and throughout New York City for more than 40 years. He will guide you through this process and help you make all necessary updates to your estate planning agreements, ensuring your best interests are maintained moving forward.
Please contact Leslie Martin, Attorney at Law or call (516) 222-0900 today to schedule a consultation. Mr. Martin serves clients in Nassau, Suffolk and Queens Counties, and throughout all of New York City.