If you already have an estate plan in place, you probably know that it requires occasional updates based on life events. This includes things like marriage, new children and grandchildren, the death of beneficiaries and divorce.
If you’re considering or preparing for divorce, it’s crucial to understand what changes you’ll need to make to your estate plan and when. State laws on this vary, so you’ll want to know how Pennsylvania law works.
Likely, your soon-to-be ex is designated to inherit most, if not all, of your estate – and vice versa. Pennsylvania law states that if there’s a “divorce or pending divorce,” after someone has made their will, “Any provision…in favor of or relating to the testator’s spouse shall become ineffective for all purposes unless it appears from the will that the provision was intended to survive a divorce….”
Instead of assuming that your ex will no longer inherit anything, however, it’s best to review your will to ensure that there’s nothing in it that indicates the inheritance provision was “intended to survive a divorce.”
Further, you’ll want to clearly designate how you now want your assets to be divided (among adult children, to other family members, to charities and so on). If you still want your ex to inherit a portion of your estate (or if that’s a stipulation of your divorce agreement), you’ll need to codify it.
Powers of attorney
Most people give their spouse power of attorney (POA) over their health care and finances should they become incapacitated and unable to speak for themselves or handle their own affairs. Pennsylvania law states that “the designation of the spouse as agent shall be revoked as of the time the action was filed, unless it appears from the power of attorney that the designation was intended to survive such an event.” Note that this is effective once either spouse files for divorce.
Maybe you still trust and respect your ex enough to want them to have health care and financial POA. If that’s the case, you should make sure that’s clearly stated in your estate plan documents.
These are just two things to look at in your estate plan as you divorce. You probably will need to update your assets and their beneficiaries since you’ll likely transfer or sell some of them. It’s wise to go through the plan thoroughly with an experienced estate planning professional (and to encourage your soon-to-be ex to do the same). An up-to-date estate plan is especially crucial once you’re a single person again.