How Divorce Affects Your Georgia Estate Plan

Many spouses do not know just how much the other spouse has permeated their lives until someone files for divorce. In a divorce, both spouses must disclose seemingly every detail of their lives to the other’s attorney. With so much going on, plenty of spouses forget about updating their wills and estate plans. 

An important note here is that, once someone files for divorce in Georgia, a temporary standing order prevents either spouse from selling assets or spending a large amount of money. This sometimes restricts certain actions related to estate planning. So, you should refrain from making drastic changes to your wills and trusts after you or your spouse files the Petition for Divorce. 

Divorce Automatically Removes Your Spouse’s Name From Your Will

Fortunately, Georgia law prevents an ex-spouse from inheriting a bequest made in the other ex-spouse’s will. After a divorce, the ex-spouse’s name will no longer appear in the will. However, this creates a hole in your estate plan. Now that your spouse is no longer in a position to inherit, who will? Regardless of who you choose, make sure you make the changes promptly after your divorce is finalized—if not before. 

What About Other Estate Planning Documents?

Just because your (soon-to-be-ex) spouse will get removed from your will does not mean you are done making necessary changes to your estate plan. Do you have one or more trusts? Powers of attorney? Health care directives? If so—and you probably should—your spouse’s name is probably all over them. 

The problem here is that your spouse is likely the fiduciary on one or more of these forms. For instance, a health care power of attorney authorizes someone (your agent) to make certain decisions related to your medical care when you lose capacity. Do you want that authority to remain with your ex-spouse? 

The same goes for your trusts. The most important role in a trust arrangement is the trustee. Trustees are responsible for distributing the trust’s assets to beneficiaries and generally maintaining any investments or other appreciating assets. Many people create trusts for their children and grandchildren. 

One of the only things you and your spouse probably agree on is the wellbeing of your children. In that situation, your spouse might be an appropriate trustee after the divorce. A divorce sometimes prompts co-parents to create a trust when there previously was none. 

Other components of your estate plan that may need changing after your divorce are retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and any accounts with a transfer-on-death or payable-on-death designation. Comb through your assets to determine whether any accounts are jointly owned by you and your spouse. 

We Can Help You Sort it Out

The Anderson Firm is well-versed in the countless ways that multiple practice areas intersect and affect lives. High-level legal representation combined with personalized care and attention is what we provide. Contact The Anderson Firm today to discuss your legal needs.

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