Estate planning offers legal protection for families and individuals through all of life’s transitions. Wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives are the most common estate planning tools we use to help clients protect their wishes, safeguard their assets, and ensure provision and care for their loved ones following their death or incapacity.

What Does My Estate Plan Have to Do with My Divorce?

Your estate plan can be impacted greatly if it’s not updated after a divorce. For example, if your ex-spouse has been named as a beneficiary on your life insurance policy, they may still be able to collect the proceeds if you suddenly pass away without updating your documents. Your ex-spouse may also retain authority roles as your power of attorney or healthcare agent unless you revoke such power. As a single adult, you must also name the people you now want to act on your behalf or manage your affairs in an emergency once the role is no longer filled by your ex-spouse.

Won’t a Divorce Automatically Stop My Ex-Spouse from Having Such Power?

While this topic has been introduced in the Tennessee General Assembly, no laws have been passed yet to prevent it. Although a divorce decree will remove your ex-spouse from inheriting under your will or serving as Personal Representative/Executor, it does not remove them from serving under other documents like your power of attorney or healthcare directive. And it doesn’t remove them from inheriting anything they receive as a beneficiary outside of probate such as life insurance, bank accounts, retirement accounts, or trust funds.  That is why you must update your documents after a divorce to be certain that your ex no longer has this power.

What Documents Should I Update?

During your divorce, the law prevents you from making many changes to your financial situation or medical insurance. Once the decree is signed though, you will want to review and update the following documents:

  • Will
  • Trust
  • Power of Attorney
  • Healthcare Directive
  • Beneficiary Designations on Life Insurance Policies
  • Beneficiary Designations on Retirement Plans
  • Beneficiaries on any accounts with Payable on Death Provisions

Getting Help

Tennessee has laws that dictate when documents can be updated or altered as you move through the divorce proceedings. It’s important to speak with an experienced Davidson County will and trust lawyer before you make any changes, as any unapproved transfers or changes to your documents could be considered fraudulent. If you need help getting started, we are here to assist you with your planning. Contact our office by calling (615) 846–6201 or click here to schedule an appointment.