Altering Your Estate Plan After Divorce
Data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) show that there were approximately 750,000 divorces concluded in 2019 (the most recent available data). Given how complex and distasteful many divorces wind up being, it is easy to forget that certain aspects of your estate plan must be altered after your divorce is final. Florida law automatically makes certain changes once you receive your decree, and too many people receive an unpleasant surprise later on if they fail to take that into account.
State Law Often Protects You
Perhaps the most important change you need to make after a divorce is in all the different estate appointee obligations that now must be redistributed. In other words, most people name their spouses to any ‘office’ or position of responsibility that their estate plan might create – for example, they might be the trustee of your living trust, your personal representative, or the named surrogate in your healthcare surrogate designation. In some situations, Florida law will actually disinherit the former spouse as a matter of law – for example, if they are listed as a beneficiary on your life insurance policy, state law holds that bequest as invalid if it was made before your divorce became final.
This doctrine also applies to bequests in your will or in a living trust; state law treats those kinds of bequests as if your ex-spouse had predeceased you. This is done primarily to try and avoid assets going to people that you did not necessarily want to have them – for example, if you were to suddenly die without changing your will after a divorce, state law would kick in and prevent your ex-spouse from unilaterally claiming certain assets. You may still want to grant certain assets to your ex-spouse – you can do this, but you will likely have to make a new will or update your trust agreement.
Do Not Ignore Your Estate Planning!
Given the number of estate appointee positions that will need to be redistributed after your divorce, it is tempting for some to simply ignore things. However, this can cause significant problems down the line, particularly if you do not have very much family. If you do not dispose of a certain asset via your will or a trust, it will pass to any heirs that can be found in what is known as Florida’s intestate succession order. When someone dies intestate, it means they have not provided any plan for how they want their assets and debts distributed. If this happens to you, it means the probate court must distribute them according to state law.
Florida’s law on intestate succession is fairly straightforward; it grants assets to a spouse first. If you have no spouse at the time of your passing, children, parents, and siblings come next, and so on. An ex-spouse gets nothing; nor do any other heirs not related to you that you might have wished to provide for. In extreme cases, if you have no family other than your former spouse, your estate will escheat to the state, which means that your assets will be sold off and the proceeds will wind up in state coffers (generally, the State School Fund).
Contact A Naples Estate Planning Attorney
If you have questions, concerns or just want to set up a complimentary consultation to discuss your personal legal issues in a confidential setting, contact James R. Nici, the Managing Partner of Nici Law Firm, a Naples estate planning attorney with almost 30 years of legal experience. This may be the first step toward ensuring all is how you want it to be going forward. Contact our offices today via our website, or on the telephone at 239-449-6150, to schedule your complimentary consultation.