Are you divorced or in the middle of a divorce proceeding? If so, you should review your estate planning documents, ownership titles on your assets and named beneficiaries.
If your spouse was named as the primary agent on your estate documents, then they will need to be updated sooner rather than later. Your spouse should be replaced with a person (or persons) you implicitly trust.
If you fail to make this change, your former spouse could decline the role of acting on your behalf. If an alternate agent cannot be found, your documents could lapse or their implementation could be delayed.
Another consequence that may result from listing your former spouse on your estate documents could be the additional expense and delay in petitioning the court to have an executor or guardian appointed. Even worse, the court-appointed executor or guardian could be someone you do not want handling your financial affairs or making health care decisions for you.
In addition, during the review of your Last Will and Testament, you may want to consider changing the names of those listed as heirs.
Reviewing the ownership (titling) and beneficiary designations on all of your assets is equally important when going through a divorce. Areas of interest include the deed to a home you kept or received as part of the divorce settlement, bank and stock accounts, retirement accounts and life insurance. Your former spouse’s name should be removed from all of these. If necessary, consider opening new accounts and ensure that the names of beneficiaries listed are changed.
Failing to update ownership and beneficiary designations could result in your former spouse claiming an asset as a co-owner or beneficiary. Post-divorce, this is most likely not your intent, and it could pose complications in the future for your children, second spouse or others.
It is common to see former spouses receiving assets in situations where new wills were signed, but re-titling did not occur nor were the names of beneficiaries updated. In Maryland, a contract containing the beneficiary designations will be strictly enforced, which occurs even if those designations differ from those named to inherit in your will.
A careful review of the ownership and beneficiary designations on your estate planning documents ensures that your current wishes are upheld and you are protected.
For more information on changing your estate planning documents during or after a divorce, contact the attorneys at Abraham and Bauer.