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Divorce, wills and other estate-planning documents

Divorce is a time of many changes for those going through it, whether here in Palm Beach or elsewhere. With numerous tasks to attend to prior to the conclusion of the divorce process, it can be easy to forget that any wills and other estate-planning documents probably require changes. Since no one can predict the future, the sooner these documents are reviewed and appropriately changed, the better.

Palm Beach residents should be aware of the fact that as long as they remain legally married, a future former spouse could still obtain control over various aspects of their estates until the divorce is final. The existence of the divorce proceedings is not necessarily enough to keep the other party from gaining this control. This might include powers of attorney that appointed the other party as the agent.

This means that an estranged spouse could be called upon to make health care and financial decisions on behalf of an incapacitated spouse. Most people would like to believe that he or she would selflessly execute the duties of an agent regardless of the personal situation, but depending on the circumstances, not many would want to take that chance. Serving as the trustee of any trust in place could also fall to this individual, depending on the trust, and that, too, could result in problems.

While many states automatically nullify any provisions in wills associated with a former, or future former, spouse, it would still be a good idea to make any necessary changes in order to avoid any potential confusion. This legal protection does not necessarily extend to trusts, powers of attorney or other documents. Anyone going through, or about to go through, a divorce would benefit from a review of any existing estate-planning documents so that any changes needed could be done as expeditiously as possible. It not only protects the person making the plan, but also those who benefit from it.

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