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Just divorced? Don't forget your estate planning needs

Most people in Oklahoma would agree that perhaps the only constant in life is change. Whether this belief is actually true does not negate the need for updated wills and other important estate documents after significant life changes. Divorce, for example, creates a prime opportunity for individuals to revisit the estate planning process and address any necessary changes.

Even the most basic estate plans typically include a will, which is a good place to start after a divorce. However, certain changes made to a will must also be reflected elsewhere. Account beneficiary designations are considered more legally relevant than whatever a will states, meaning that simply removing an ex-spouse's name from a will does not mean that he or she can no longer receive the benefits from a retirement or other type of account. Both the beneficiary designation as well as the will's wording should be updated to reflect the current situation.

More advanced estate plans might include livings wills and healthcare powers of attorney. Living wills are used to describe an individual's preferences concerning medical care, such as whether they would like life-saving interventions or to be kept alive on a ventilator. The healthcare power of attorney grants an individual the legal right to make those decisions on a medically incapacitated person's behalf. No matter how well a divorce might have gone, the vast majority of people in Oklahoma would likely not be comfortable with an ex-spouse being in charge of their medical decisions.

An estate plan is not a "set it and forget it" type of commodity that can be left to care for itself. As life changes, couples divorce and new children are born, the terms contained in a person's will and other important estate planning documents should be revisited and revised where necessary. Failing to maintain an estate plan can lead to unwanted outcomes and lengthy probate processes.

Source: Forbes, "5 Things You Need To Do After Getting A Divorce", Mark Eghrari, Feb. 26, 2016

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