Divorce is a devastating process. On top of the emotional toll, there are many financial and practical considerations to think about—especially if children are involved. While going through this difficult time, it’s important to ensure all aspects of your life are taken care of—including estate planning. If you drafted a will with your spouse, it’s likely you made decisions together that no longer make sense. This is why it’s important to make necessary changes as part of the divorce proceedings.
Update Your Power of Attorney and Medical Directive
In the state of Virginia, the law protects married couples. However, once you are separated, you can make adjustments to aspects of your will including your power of attorney. This role, also known as a Durable General Power of Attorney or Advance Directive/Health Care Power of Attorney allows your spouse to make financial or medical decisions for you if you are unable to speak for yourself due to illness or injury.
When separation occurs, take the time to prepare new powers of attorney, which will terminate the existing powers in place. A power of attorney can be a parent, an adult child, or even a close family friend.
Consider Guardianship Options
Unfortunately in many marriages that have resulted in children, guardianship is one of the most difficult aspects of divorce. Protect yourself by getting a clear guardianship in place in the instance of your death. Will your former spouse receive full custody? Is this a situation where your ex will not want to care for the children? These are things that need to be considered and arranged ahead of time.
Just like your power of attorney, you can nominate a guardian for your children if your spouse is unwilling or unfit to take on the role. Even if the other party is an adequate parent, it is still important to update guardianship wishes in case something were to happen to you both.
Change Beneficiary Designations
Without updated beneficiary designations, your spouse will inherit everything upon your passing. During the separation period, Virginia couples should prepare a trust as part of their estate plan. This trust acts as a placeholder for all assets owned by both individuals. After divorce, it seems natural to designate minor children as the beneficiary, but a wiser option would be to designate the trust. This allows individuals to deed their home and other valuables to their minor children while protecting all assets in the meantime. If a trust is not formed, or a will is not updated, then Virginia law may favor the ex-spouse.
Do You Need To Speak With A Lawyer About Estate Planning?
If you need to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer please contact us online or call our Fairfax, Virginia office directly at 703.277.2811 to schedule your free consultation.