Estate Planning Amid a Divorce


You and your spouse have likely planned, at least somewhat, for your family’s financial future. You may have had Wills prepared, and have likely purchased health, life, and disability insurance. Most couples have appointed guardians for their minor children, in the event that you and your spouse die prior to the children reaching adulthood. In addition, you and your spouse likely named each other as beneficiaries of each other’s retirement accounts. However, the one thing that you most likely didn’t plan for together is divorce.

Estate plans should be updated after any major life event, especially a divorce, as your wishes will likely change if divorce rears its ugly head. If divorce is being considered, creating or updating Wills, Powers of Attorney, and Health Care Directives should be at the top of your list of “to-do” items. These documents address your property and assets, your personal health care wishes, and the individuals who will be making decisions in the event of an emergency. Unless, in the event of a divorce, you would like for your ex to have the same decision-making privileges and power which he or she currently possesses, you’ll want to create or change the aforementioned documents as soon as divorce becomes a real possibility.

Actions to be Considered when Divorce Comes into Play:

1. Update your Will to remove any outdated provisions. You’ll want to change the executor to someone other than your soon-to-be ex-spouse, so choose a trusted family member or friend. If the thought of your ex inheriting your assets doesn’t sit well with you, you’re probably equally opposed to leaving him or her in charge of your estate.

2. Revoke and update Power of Attorney and Health Care Directives. In order to avoid confusion, it is wise to update these documents as soon as you file for divorce. You probably don’t want to have your ex in charge of “pulling the plug,” or he or she having the power to sign your name.

3. If you have a life insurance policy, be specific as to who the payee will be at the time of death. The individual that holds the insurance policy is responsible for paying insurance premiums. Life insurance is an essential part of any divorce arrangement and is needed to secure protection in the event of death.

4. Update your trust (if applicable). If you have minor children, you should name someone as trustee in charge of how money left to the children will be managed. Otherwise, if your ex-spouse is their guardian, he or she will have the right to access and control the money in the event of your death. In addition, you may want to reconsider what portion of the trust, if any, is to be left to your spouse.

Important questions to ask your attorney in the event of divorce or separation:

Are your assets protected, as well as they can be, from federal and state estate taxes in the event of a divorce? How do I locate hidden assets that my spouse may have? Will you and your heirs be properly cared for in the event of the death of your ex?

If you have questions about your divorce and how it may affect your estate plans, please contact Scott Bonebrake for assistance. Scott is a general practitioner in Media, PA, and has been a licensed attorney for over 25 years. Please feel free to contact Scott at 610-892-7700, or at