Several estate planning considerations become relevant after a divorce.
Initially, you should ensure that you have changed all of your beneficiary designations to someone other than your former spouse (unless you are required to maintain your former spouse as a beneficiary pursuant to an agreement or order). Accordingly, you should verify that all bank and brokerage accounts, retirement plans, homeowner’s policies and life insurance policies (including policies through your employment) no longer list your former spouse as a beneficiary.
You may also want to give some consideration to who will make financial and healthcare decisions for you if you become unable to do so for yourself. Although the NYS Family Health Care Decisions Act provides for various priorities in making healthcare decisions for an incapacitated person, no such statute exists for financial purposes. Additionally, you may not want the person who is given priority by the law to be the person making healthcare decisions for you. In NYS, one can designate his or her own agents for these purposes. The agent for healthcare purposes is designated by executing a Health Care Proxy, and the agent for financial matters is designated by executing a Durable Power of Attorney.
Additionally, you may also wish to consider what would happen in the event of your death. If you have a child who is under the age of eighteen years old, that child cannot receive an inheritance outright. Instead, that child’s inheritance would be controlled by that child’s guardian, who would most likely be your former spouse. Many people are uncomfortable knowing that their former spouse would have control of their assets. This issue can be addressed by executing a Last Will and Testament with provisions that allow your administrator to remit the inheritance to a custodian other than your former spouse. To be more secure, a Last Will and Testament can be drafted with trust provisions that require the inheritance to be remitted to the trustee of your choice for the benefit of your child. Paying the inheritance into a trust, rather than to the child or custodian directly, has many other benefits, including spendthrift protection and protection from creditors.