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Does Divorce Affect My Estate Plan?

Posted by Dana Law Group on November 7, 2021

If you’ve already developed an estate plan and you’re facing a divorce, you may worry about how your divorce will affect your current plan. While it’s obvious you will need to make some changes, there may be aspects you can leave as is. However, Arizona dictates certain changes that immediately go into effect when you get a divorce. Therefore, it’s essential to understand what changes the state law enacts to ensure you’re aware of how they impact your existing estate plan.

Your Last Will and Testament

A will allows you to designate the beneficiaries of your estate. According to Arizona law, an ex-spouse is immediately disqualified from being listed as a beneficiary in your will. As soon as your divorce is finalized, your ex-spouse is immediately removed from your will, eliminating anything they would have inherited based on your current will. They also can’t hold fiduciary positions, which means you will need to list someone else as the executor of your estate if you get divorced and have previously named your ex-spouse to this role.

Power of Attorney

Many people designate a power of attorney to handle their affairs if they become incapacitated due to an illness or injury. In many of these cases, your spouse is named to this critical role with the understanding they have your best interests in mind. However, when you get divorced, Arizona state law doesn’t allow your ex-spouse to fulfill this role. Whether you have your ex-spouse listed as a power of attorney over health or financial matters, they will be removed immediately following your divorce. They will also lose their beneficiary status on any life insurance policies you hold and their rights of survivorship to inherit property. This law is designed to protect you in case something happens soon after your divorce and prevent your ex-spouse from taking advantage of these critical roles.

You Can Make Changes

While each of these steps is taken automatically after your divorce, they don’t have to be binding if you don’t want them to be. Some couples maintain a civil relationship after divorce, particularly if they parted on good terms or there are children involved. In these situations, you may wish to keep your ex-spouse in your will or may still trust them enough to fulfill some or all of these roles. However, you will need to see an attorney and draft new copies of your documents to reinstate these elements of your estate plan.

When you’re going through a divorce, the best thing to do is to review your current estate plan and revisit these issues with an attorney. They can help you make the necessary changes, adding new beneficiaries or designating new people to critical roles like your power of attorney.