Estate planning documents are likely the last thing on a person's mind during a divorce. Child custody and visitation arrangements and property division all take precedent.
But here's why they should be and what can happen if they are not prioritized.
A healthcare power of attorney
Let's say, for instance, married parties have both executed a healthcare power of attorney. Each authorizes the other to make medical decisions in the event one becomes incapacitated.
But then a divorce occurs.
Without altering the individual who possesses the power of attorney, a person's ex-spouse may legally be left making medical decisions on his or her behalf-an unlikely wish given the decision to separate.
Naming a new, preferable party, like an adult child or mother or father, as the healthcare power of attorney during a divorce is vital to ensuring the right person is making the right decisions.
But a healthcare power of attorney is one of many documents that should be revisited in the event of a divorce.
Other documents that need attention
A will that stipulates who would inherit a person's property in the event of his or her death should reflect the appropriate parties. A life insurance policy, brokerage or retirement account beneficiary that may have listed a now ex-spouse as the beneficiary will need to be changed.
These documents should all be updated to reflect the new designated party.
Although determining what to do with the family residence or making child custody arrangements are important matters that need to be decided in a divorce, so too are estate plans.
Speaking with an estate planning attorney for further guidance on specific matters is advised. They can assist with reorganizing this documentation and making necessary updates.