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  • Northern Virginia Trusts & Estates

Revising Your Estate Plan after a Divorce

Updated: May 22

If you are going through a divorce, revising your estate plan may be one of the last things you think about.  Yet, not doing so could cause serious, unwanted consequences down the line.  In other words, if you don’t want your assets given to the person you just divorced, you must take the necessary steps required to update your estate plan.

Unfortunately, many divorcing couples forget to update their estate plan after their divorce.  Some people mistakenly believe a divorce automatically nullifies the estate plan in place prior to the divorce.  However, in most all cases, it does not.  Make an appointment with your Virginia estate planning attorney at the earliest possible time in order to make the changes necessary following your divorce.  Some of the issues you need to consider regarding revisions to your estate plan:

  1. You will revoke your will or living trust and draft a new one.  If you don’t have one of these documents in place, now is a good time to have one prepared. With your will or trust, you can ensure your assets are left to those you choose, you will name an executor, and a guardian for your minor children.  In particular, when revising your will or trust, you will want to remove your ex-spouse as beneficiary on any of your assets.  You want to be very clear about who you want your assets to be left to.

  2. You will also need to name an executor for your will or trust.  If you don’t want your ex to inherit any of your assets, it is unlikely you would want him or her named as executor and in charge of your estate.

  3. You will name a guardian for your children.  This can be their other parent or another designated person.  In the event both you and your ex die, you will want to make sure you have named a guardian.  Generally speaking, upon your death, the children’s other parent will automatically become sole guardian of the children.  If, however, you have compelling reasons not to want your ext to raise your children (child abuse or substance abuse), you nee to discuss this with your attorney and look at your options.  While an estate-planning document may not prevent your ex-spouose from raising your children after your death, designating a guardian is important in the event that your ex-spouse cannot act as guardian for any reason.

Changing Beneficiaries

It is important not to overlook changing the beneficiary designation on your life insurance policy, your retirement accounts, any pay-on-death bank accounts or transfer-on-death brokerage accounts.  You will need to request new documents from the bank, your employer, and the company who holds your lifer insurance policy, or the brokerage, and fill them out and submit them as soon as possible.

Changing Your Power of Attorney

If you have a power of attorney in place which grants another person the authority to act on your behalf financially and you had previously named yhour ex, you may want to change designation as well.  If you have a healthcare power of attorny and a financial power of attorney, they need to be revoked and replaced with updated documents.

After a divorce or major life event, a skilled Virginia estate planning attorney ( can make the process much less confusing, ensuring your wishes are properly and legally set forth.

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