Naperville Estate Planning Lawyer Talks About Divorce, Ex-Spouses, and Estate Plans

divorce, Naperville estate planning attorneyAccording to current estimates, the divorce rate in the United States is somewhere between 30 and 45 percent. While the exact number may be tough to pin down, the reality is that thousands of couples get divorced every year in Illinois alone. A divorce can change your life in more ways than you might realize immediately. Following a divorce, you may now be living alone for the first time in many years, your relationship with your children may be different, and you may find yourself with way more time on your hands than before. But, have you thought about your estate plan?

As an experienced estate planning lawyer, I understand that the immediate concerns of a divorce are often more pressing than revamping your will or powers of attorney. Once your divorce has been finalized, however, it is time to review your plan and see if changes need to be made.

What the Law Says

According to Illinois law, if you get divorced, your spouse automatically loses his or her status as an heir or beneficiary in your estate plan. He or she is also relieved of any fiduciary responsibility, including appointments as an executor, trustee, and power of attorney. If you were to die before amending your estate plan, the law would treat the situation as if your ex-spouse is already deceased.

There are other certain items—including retirement plans, life insurance policies, and accounts with named beneficiaries—that do not automatically revoke your ex-spouse’s status as a beneficiary. These will need to be addressed and amended separately from the other documents in your estate plan.

Removing Your Ex-Spouse

When your former spouse is removed from your estate plan, there may not be a viable backup strategy in place. For example, if your will simply left your entire estate to your spouse and you get divorced, your estate would then be divided in accordance with the state’s intestacy laws. Similarly, if you were to become incapacitated following your divorce and your ex was your only choice for power of attorney, nobody else would have the authority to make decisions on your behalf. Therefore, it is especially important to review your estate plan after your divorce and make alternate arrangements for any details that previously relied on your ex-spouse.

An Amicable Split

There is the possibility, however, that you and your former spouse have maintained a strong relationship even after your divorce. Perhaps you still want to leave him or her certain assets or trust him or her with particular responsibilities. This is not terribly uncommon, especially for divorced couples with younger children. You have every right to include your ex as you see fit in your estate plan, but you will still need to create new estate planning documents. To ensure your ex is properly included, your new documents will need to be signed and dated after the date that your divorce was finalized.

Call Us for Help

If you have questions about how your divorce will affect the viability of your current estate plan, contact a knowledgeable Naperville estate planning attorney. Call 630-756-1160 for a confidential consultation at The Gierach Law Firm today.

 

Sources:

Probate Act of 1975

Illinois Power of Attorney Act