Estate Planning After a Divorce

Unhappy woman holding wedding ring close up - estate planning after divorce concept
A divorce changes many aspects of your life — including those involving your finances and estate planning matters. While it might be the last thing on your mind as you move forward into the new chapter in your life, it’s vital to assess matters concerning estate planning after a divorce. Whether you have an estate plan in place or not, it’s crucial to draft documents that reflect your current wishes. Not only do estate planning documents address what will happen in the event the unexpected occurs, but they can also ensure you have a plan in place for incapacity.

What to Do Before Filing for Divorce

Before you file for divorce, it’s best to consult with an estate planning attorney who can advise you regarding what steps you should take to safeguard your assets. Once you file for divorce, there are automatic restraining orders that go into effect which may prevent you from making certain changes. Although some modifications to your estate plan may be made before a divorce is finalized, many can only be executed once the final decree has been issued. It’s best to consult with an experienced divorce and estate planning attorney who can advise you regarding your specific circumstances. Oregon law allows you to make changes to your medical power of attorney at any time, including before and during the divorce process. This is particularly important as most people would not want their soon-to-be ex-spouse making healthcare decisions on their behalf in the event of incapacitation. Similarly, you should execute a new financial power of attorney as soon as possible to avoid having your spouse make financial decisions for you if you cannot do so yourself. Notably, even though Oregon law does not permit you to disinherit your spouse, you can still make any changes you wish to your last will and testament before and during divorce proceedings. Any provisions that provide for your spouse will be automatically revoked by law upon divorce. It’s a good idea to consider the impact of divorce on your will in advance and how the other beneficiaries may be affected.

What to Consider When Estate Planning After Divorce

Estate planning is one of the most important things you will do in your lifetime to ensure your loved ones are provided for when you pass. It’s vital to carefully consider every possible scenario that could arise in your life when drafting a comprehensive estate plan that meets your needs. Significantly, your financial and family circumstances may look very different once you and your spouse have parted ways — and these changes must be accounted for in your estate planning documents. It’s especially important to do the following when estate planning after divorce:
  • Revise your will and any trust instruments to reflect changes to your financial situation and beneficiaries
  • Update any medical or financial powers of attorney as necessary
  • Change any beneficiaries on your bank accounts, retirement account, and any other accounts
  • Review and update any deeds or titles to real or personal property
  • Review any provisions related to the guardianship of minor children to ensure they are consistent with the custody agreement
  • Look at any life insurance policies and change the beneficiaries as needed
Once your divorce has been finalized, you may make whatever changes to your estate planning documents that you wish. In some cases, a spouse may want to leave certain property to their former spouse. In these instances, you will still need to update your estate plan if you wish to leave certain assets to them, so they are not excluded by operation of law.

How Does Divorce in Oregon Impact a Last Will and Testament?

Even if you don’t have a full estate plan in place, it’s vital to at least have a last will and testament when you divorce. If you already have one drafted, it’s important to understand how it will be impacted by your divorce. Just as Oregon law may revoke certain provisions in any will you made upon marriage to ensure your spouse is provided for, it will also revoke certain provisions of your will that pertain to your spouse upon divorce. Even though Oregon law revokes the provisions in your will that provide for your spouse automatically upon divorce, this may also impact other aspects of your will. For instance, if a beneficiary is not named for certain property, Oregon law will determine what will happen to it — and this may not result in the outcome you had intended.

Contact an Experienced Oregon Divorce and Estate Planning Attorney

With so many changes happening in your life at once, estate planning after divorce can be stressful and emotionally overwhelming. Estate planning is not one-size-fits-all and it’s critical to have an attorney on your side who will work closely with you to create a comprehensive estate plan that satisfies your objectives. Based in Salem, Litowich Law provides reliable representation for a wide variety of estate planning matters, including those involving divorce, throughout Oregon. We welcome you to contact us for a consultation.
Categories: Divorce, Estate Planning