After Divorce, Don't Forget to Update Your Estate Plan


Divorce can be a time of many changes. After ending your marriage, you may find yourself moving to a new city, seeking a new job, and/or living alone for the first time in several years. There's nothing wrong with being eager to move on with your life, but it's important to spend some time updating your estate plan to make sure you're not unintentionally leaving certain assets to your former spouse and his or her family in the event of your death.

California state law automatically revokes any bequests a will makes to your former spouse, but does not affect any gifts you may have left to anyone related to your former spouse by blood, adoption, or marriage. If you are the custodial parent of a minor child, you should also update your guardianship designations. Your former spouse will be given custody in the event of your death unless he or she is determined by the court to be an unfit parent, but you must still name a guardian in the event that your spouse is unwilling or unable to assume the responsibility.

Aside from writing a new will, you must also update your beneficiary designations. It's not uncommon for people to have multiple bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts, insurance policies, and/or annuities with named beneficiaries that must be updated. These assets do not go through the probate process and will thus transfer to the named beneficiary regardless of what your current will states. Beneficiaries must be changed in writing by completing the necessary forms from the financial institution in charge of managing the policy or account.

Once you've handled all important financial matters, you should also take the time to update your health care proxy and power of attorney designations. If you do not have adult children who are up to the task, consider naming a sibling, niece, nephew, or close friend.

How Can We Help?

Our Pasadena estate planning attorneys can help you create a plan that best addresses your specific needs or update your current estate plan to reflect your recent change in circumstances. Please call our office at (626) 683-8113 or email us at to schedule an appointment.