Estate planning matters to evaluate after a divorce

On Behalf of | Jul 30, 2020 | Estate Planning

Since your divorce, your future has changed. You need to update your estate plan to reflect your new circumstances.

Here are some end-of-life issues that you need to re-evaluate now that you are single.

Durable power of attorney for health care

In New Jersey, your POA for health care becomes invalid as soon as you or your former spouse filed for the divorce unless you designated an alternate agent. If you did, that person immediately became your new agent, but otherwise, you will need an entirely new health care POA.


If you die without a will and you are no longer married, the state’s intestate laws pass over your former spouse. However, if you named your spouse as a beneficiary in your will, he or she remains so until you change it.

You can add a codicil that indicates the changes you want if the changes are not significant; you do not have to rewrite the entire will. For example, if you already stated that you want most of your assets to go to your children, you may only need to add a codicil indicating who should receive the assets you designated for your former spouse.


When one parent dies, the other retains guardianship of their minor children. However, if your co-parent has mental health or substance abuse issues or some other condition that would make him or her unfit, you may need to take steps to make sure your children are with someone who will keep them safe.

If you have children from a previous relationship who do not have another parent, you may want to choose a new guardian for them. On the other hand, if your former spouse has a good relationship with them, you may want them to live with their former stepparent if you die while they are minors.

Beneficiary designations

Your life insurance policy, retirement accounts, life insurance policies and trusts may have your former spouse as beneficiary. Some, such as your retirement accounts, may change during the property division phase of the divorce. Others may have specific processes for removing a beneficiary, and these could be complex. For example, to change an irrevocable trust, you may need the permission of all the beneficiaries.

Consider also who will manage your children’s inheritance if they are minors when you die. Their other parent is likely to have this responsibility unless you name someone else to manage and distribute the assets. A trust may be the best way to take care of their financial future and provide your heirs with peace of mind.