If you created an estate plan during your marriage, you likely have a will, trust, power of attorney, and/or health care documents involving or benefiting your spouse. In addition, you may have your spouse named as the beneficiary for disability, life insurance, or other such accounts. Each of these items will need to be updated to reflect your divorce. You will likely want to change provisions in your will and health care documents and may want to revoke or modify any document naming your spouse as trustee or attorney-in-fact. You will also want to make sure all beneficiary designations are properly updated. An estate planning attorney can help you properly and completely update your estate plan to protect your new wishes and benefit your loved ones.
Even if you have never executed a will or other formal estate planning document, you likely have one or more account or product naming your spouse as a beneficiary. An estate planning attorney can help you identify beneficiary designations that will need to be changed and help you properly modify them. Now is also a good time to get a full estate plan in place to protect your assets and provide for children and other loved ones. Beneficiary designations are often included in a complete estate planning package, which may be offered at a discount as compared to individual estate planning documents. A complete estate plan generally includes the following:
WILL: The most common estate planning document is a will. A last will and testament most basically directs the distribution of assets at one's passing. However, a will is much more than a tool directing who gets what. It can also set up trusts for minors, name fiduciaries, appoint guardians for minor children, and protect any specific wishes you may have. A will prevents the state from dictating the handling of your affairs and distribution of your assets at your passing.
POWER OF ATTORNEY: A power of attorney is a document that allows a trusted individual to manage your personal and financial affairs during your lifetime. A durable power of attorney remains valid if you should become incapacitated and a springing power of attorney only goes into effect if you do become incapacitated. Either of those options may be used depending on your circumstances. Any trusted individual can be named attorney-in-fact, and you may want to consider a sibling, parent, adult child, or other individual who you trust to look after your best interest. You can also name alternate attorneys-in-fact in the event that your primary attorney-in-fact is unwilling or unable to act on your behalf.
HEALTH CARE POWER OF ATTORNEY: A health care power of attorney is a similar document to a standard power of attorney, except it allows the named attorney-in-fact to handle matters related to your health care as opposed to your personal matters. This document can be very important and helpful for your loved ones at a very difficult time when you are unable to make your own health care decisions. Your health care attorney-in-fact should be an individual who you trust and who you are comfortable discussing health care issues with. Your attorney in fact should know what your wishes would be if you were able to make your own health care choices.
LIVING WILL: A living will is a document that allows you to dictate your wishes related to life prolonging measures should you suffer life-threatening disease or injury. This is also a very important and helpful document for your loved ones, especially if you have strong opinions on the matter. It can save them from having to make extremely difficult decisions and/or providing or withholding extraordinary measures when you would prefer otherwise.
BENEFICIARY DESIGNATION: A beneficiary designation should be specifically tailored to your personal situation so that benefits received under various plans and accounts are properly distributed as you intend, whether to a trust or individual. When an attorney creates your estate plan, she will be thoroughly familiar with your circumstances and will help you draft a beneficiary designation specifically tailored to your situation.
TRUSTS: Trusts are instruments that allow assets to be held and managed by an individual, bank, or other fiduciary for the benefit of somebody else. Trusts are very helpful when assets are to be distributed to minors or held for the care of an individual for special needs. They can also be used to prevent or reduce estate and gift taxes. There are many types and purposes of trusts, and they can be simple or extremely complex. An attorney can help you determine if a trust should be used in your situation and can tailor a trust to ensure it serves its desired purpose.
It can be easy to put off estate planning, but the process is relatively painless and is definitely worth the effort. Once your estate plan is in place and up to date, you will have peace of mind that your wishes will be protected and your loved ones taken care of. Kelly Myers is a North Carolina estate planning attorney that can help you build, review and/or modify your estate plan in office or virtually. Contact the Law Office of Kelly Myers today for a consultation.