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Basic Estate Planning Questions – How Does Divorce Affect my Estate Plan?

In today’s discussion of basic estate planning questions in North Carolina, we are going to take a look at divorce and how it might affect your estate plan.

Any significant life event, including a marriage or subsequent divorce, should prompt you to, at the very minimum, review your estate plan to determine if there are any changes you need to make. Because marriage comes with a host of estate planning rights, and divorce terminates the marriage, it is necessary to review your estate plan in light of your recent or pending divorce because there are several aspects of the plan that will necessarily be affected. Here’s what you need to know about divorce and your estate plan.


Will I need to change my will after my divorce?

Almost certainly. Once you are divorced, you and your spouse no longer have the automatic right to inherit from one another. If you crafted an inheritance plan while you are married, you likely did so under the assumption that your spouse has the right to inherit from you upon your death. Now that you are divorced and this right no longer exists, you will need to change the terms of your will to reflect these new circumstances.

What about my medical directives?

Some people will have to change their advance medical directives subsequent to becoming divorced, while others may not have to. If you chose your spouse as your medical representative under a durable power of attorney for health care, health care proxy, or similar device, you will likely want to change that designation as soon as possible. Similarly, if you included your spouse as an alternative or backup representative, you should consider changing that designation as well.

How will divorce affect the way I address my children in my estate plan?

While the court will determine questions about custody and visitation, you are responsible for modifying any part of your estate plan that addresses the care or inheritances of your children after your death. For example, if you chose a guardian in your estate plan who will take over caring for your children in the event either you or your former spouse should die or becoming incapacitated, you do not typically need to change this designation.

However, your estate plan likely includes inheritances for your children. Now that you are no longer required to pass an inheritance to your former spouse, this effectively means that you will have more property to leave to your children. If you want to leave that property directly to your children, you are free to do so, but are not obligated to do so. You can, in effect, make new inheritance choices that either leave more property to your children, or to someone else.

The Law Offices of Cheryl David can help you update your Estate Plan after a divorce. Send us a message on our Contact Us page or call us at 336-547-9999. We also have free monthly seminars in the Greensboro area. Reserve your seat today!

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