Divorce can be a stressful process, especially if it’s a contentious one. You may have a lot on your mind as you finalize the divorce and take steps to move on with your life. It can be easy to overlook other important changes that should result from your divorce,… your estate plan being one of them. Revising your estate plan after a divorce in Massachusetts is extremely important to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your new wishes. Here are a few key steps to complete.
Change to Your Will
In the state of Massachusetts, a divorce automatically removes your ex-spouse as a beneficiary in your will. This happens when your divorce is completed. However, there are several reasons why you should take action despite this.
First, if you are in the process of a long-winded divorce, you may want to act sooner to remove your spouse from your will. This allows you to protect your assets in case something happens to you before the divorce is finalized. Otherwise, your assets may not be distributed according to your wishes.
Secondly, removing your spouse from your will doesn’t solve the problem of who should be named as new beneficiaries. This is something that you should decide and include in your new will. If you have minor children, you may also want to name guardians for them and an executor to help manage your estate for the benefit of your children.
Another angle to consider is the case of an amicable divorce. You may want to allow your spouse to remain as beneficiary. You will need to take special measures to affirm this after the divorce so that Massachusetts law won’t automatically remove your ex-spouse.
Regardless of whether it’s an amicable or difficult divorce, revising your estate plan after divorce in Massachusetts is a necessary step.
In addition to the beneficiaries named in your will, there are certain assets with named beneficiaries that fall outside of your will. Life insurance policies, for example, pay out to whomever is named on the particular policy and NOT the beneficiary named in your will. Furthermore, this occurs outside of the probate process.
Massachusetts law does revoke ex-spouse beneficiary designations in both wills and non-probate transfers such as life insurance policies. However, ex-spouses left on such policies would likely claim otherwise, resulting in a potentially expensive and time-consuming lawsuit. It’s always best to update these policies after divorce to avoid such complications.
Change Powers of Attorney
Your estate plan likely includes one or more documents that grant your ex-spouse power to make decisions on your behalf. Examples are:
- Non-durable Power of Attorney
- Durable Power of Attorney
- Special or Limited Power of Attorney
- Medical Power of Attorney
- Health Care Proxy
If you have any of these in place, you should replace them when revising your estate plan after divorce in Massachusetts.
Divorce is Just One of Many Reasons for Revising Your Estate Plan in Massachusetts
Divorce is a major life change that makes revising your estate plan necessary, but it’s not the only reason to do so. From family dynamics to personal finances, assets, tax laws, and state laws, there are changes in your life and in the world around you every year. Thus, it’s important to review your estate plan yearly and adjust the terms and provisions within them accordingly.