You built a life with someone that you thought would be your lifelong spouse. Plans for the future, retirement and even death were discussed and possibly finalized. But you’ve been greeted with divorce papers and your world is changing.
It’s easy to trust the person you were married to before, and it’s normal to put off estate planning documents until a later date. The issue is that no one knows what tomorrow holds. If you’ve gotten divorced, it’s time to take the proper steps to protect your estate.
3 Estate Planning Documents That Need Immediate Attention
There are documents that can wait, and documents you need to change now. The “big 3” need to be changed immediately following a divorce to protect your estate:
1. Power of Attorney
You can become incapacitated at any time. Power of Attorney allows another person to take control over your affairs in the event that you cannot make decisions on your own behalf. Incapacitation can even occur in the midst of a divorce, leaving the divorce proceedings in the hands of your power of attorney.
A lot of couples will sign a power of attorney over to their spouse – it’s natural.
But since you have now divorced, it’s a smart idea to give someone else power of attorney. If you have signed a Durable General Power of Attorney, have the person granted power over your affairs changed.
In the event that you have never signed a power of attorney, you should consider signing one in the near future.
2. Medical Power of Attorney
A general power of attorney deals with your financial affairs, but a medical power of attorney puts your life in another person’s hands. When you sign a medical power of attorney, you’re granting the right to decide on your behalf, if you’re incapacitated, to:
- Accept, refuse or revoke:
- Surgical care
- Medical care
- Hospital care
- Discontinue life-sustaining treatment
This is a very serious matter. If you’ve been in an accident and cannot make your own decisions, the person granted medical power of attorney over you can make life or death decisions on your behalf. If your former spouse is still listed, he or she will be the one that has complete control over your medical decisions.
3. Last Will and Testament
A last will and testament will give your assets to the person or persons listed in your will. Many married couples will have a last will and testament drawn up early in their marriage and will forget about it.
But just because you’re divorced, it does not mean that the will has been nullified.
You must change your will to reflect your wishes. In the event that you never had a will, note that New Jersey follows the Rule of Intestacy. What this means is that all of your earthly possessions will go to your spouse until the time that your divorce is finalized.
Changing your will following a divorce should be at the top of your to-do list.
The Micklin Law Group is a New Jersey law firm specializing in family law and estates. Attorney Brad Micklin was recently named to The National Advocates list of Top 100 attorneys from each state. Brad has a special expertise in working with high asset divorce. You can read more on this topic by visiting our divorce blog. To set up a free consultation, call 973-562-0100.