If you are separated from your spouse, filing for divorce, or even just contemplating it - you need more than just a divorce attorney. You need to visit with an estate planning attorney to make some critical changes to your estate plan before and after the divorce. This post will deal with changes than can be made before the divorce, and the next post will be about changes to make after the divorce.
- If you have signed a health care proxy naming your spouse as the person to make medical decisions for you, you should revoke it and sign a new one appointing someone else. Notify your spouse that you have revoked the HCP naming them. Make sure that anyone who knows of the old HCP (such as your doctor) is given a new one. If you have not signed a HCP, sign one, and make sure your doctor has a copy and carry a card in your wallet indicating who your new health care agent is, and where your HCP is located.
- Remove your spouse from any Power of Attorney documents that you've signed appointing them and notify any entities that may have received a copy of the old Power of Attorney so they know it has been changed. The POA is a powerful document which can give the holder the right to access bank accounts that are in your name alone, get financial and sometimes medical information about you and even sell real estate that is your name. It is vital that you sign a new one if you do not want your spouse to have this power.
During this time you should also be thinking about your estate plan after your divorce. If you would not want your former spouse to be in charge of the money that you will leave to your minor children, you will need to set up a trust, with someone else as trustee. This can be a sibling, parent, friend or even a bank or other financial institution. Your estate planning attorney can explain what the responsibilities of the trustee are, so that you can make the best choice, and can help you determine when the best time to sign the new documents are.
Tune in tomorrow for "Post-Divorce Estate Planning Tips".
For further thoughts see the New York Probate Litigation Blog.