When someone divorces in Kansas, Missouri or Oklahoma, understanding how the divorce will affect an estate plan is essential. Divorce is a stressful, emotional, and difficult time for anyone. Taking the time to address estate planning concerns prior to, during, or even after the divorce is often something people put on the back burner. Today, as part of our ongoing series on essential estate planning issues in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, we will look at how divorce can affect an estate plan and what you need to do to protect yourself and your plan if your marriage is ending.
Divorce and Inheritance
One of the most important ways a divorce affects an estate plan is the effect it has on the inheritance plans you have made. Spouses have an automatic right to inherit from one another upon the other spouse’s death. This means that if create an estate plan while married and do not provide for your spouse in the plan, your spouse will still have a legal right to receive part of your estate after you die.
When a couple divorces, they lose this right of spousal inheritance. Many spouses, however, have made provisions in their estate plans to leave at least part of their estates to their spouse. These provisions may remain in the estate plan even after the divorce is final. People who created an estate plan while married should go back and modify their plans after the marriage has ended. Failing to make these modifications can be a significant mistake.
Divorce and Incapacity
Likewise, married couples typically provide for their spouses to make decisions if they become incapacitated or unable to make their own decisions. Once the couple divorces, these plans usually must be updated to reflect the new circumstances. Sometimes a couple may still want the former spouse to be able to make such decisions, but this is normally the exception, not the rule.
What if you and your spouse have created durable financial powers of attorney that give each other the right to manage the other’s financial affairs if that spouse becomes incapacitated. After your divorce, do you still want your former spouse to be able to make these decisions for you? Usually the answer is ‘no.’ If you don’t modify your plan after your divorce, it will still reflect the choices you made while married. Updating your plan is essential if you want to provide the best possible legal protection for yourself.