Horror Story: Estate Planning and Divorce

Apr 15, 2011

I got a call last week that serves as a cautionary tale for divorcing couples. 

I tell all clients that they need to review and revise their estate plan and the documents involved in that plan when they get divorced.  These documents include Wills, trust instruments, general powers of attorney, health care powers of attorney and beneficiary designations, among others.

However, understandably, many clients do not get around to following this advice.  Many people are emotionally spent during the divorce process.  The last thing they want to do is to go see an estate planning attorney to review documents that remind them of their ex and the life they used to have. 

So, if you are in that boat, let this tale motivate you to call an estate planning attorney today. 

The caller told me that her fiancé had been married in 2004 and divorced in 2010.  During the marriage, her fiancé had executed a durable power of attorney in favor of his then wife.  (Durable means that it survives the incapacitation of the person who executes the Power of Attorney).  Her fiancé recently suffered a medical condition that prevents him from rescinding the Power of Attorney.  So, this man’s ex-wife is exercising the broad authority granted under the Power of Attorney, including managing her ex-husband’s bank accounts and other finances.  And, his fiancé is powerless for now.

You might imagine the unpleasantness that this has caused.  And, it all could have been avoided by reviewing this man’s estate plan after his divorce.  

If you want to avoid your ex having a hand in your finances and other business after your divorce, take the time to review your estate plan as a part of your divorce.

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