In an ideal situation, married couples in Florida create their estate plans well in advance of needing them and never have to worry about any significant changes. But things don’t always go as planned, and marriages can end in divorce. In fact, it’s becoming increasingly common for people of the baby boomer generation to get divorced even as they are reaching retirement age.
When you go through a divorce and have already created an estate plan, it can cause your plan some significant problems. The practical effect of any divorce on your plan will require you to reevaluate many of the steps you have taken as soon as possible. While divorce won’t necessarily invalidate the steps you’ve already taken, it will probably mean that you have a little more work ahead of you. Here is what you’ll have to reconsider.
Individual and Marital Property in a Divorce
As a married couple, you and your spouse probably think of your property as “ours.” When you get divorced, one of the main pieces of the divorce decree will be the property settlement that divides all of your property between you.
Until you file for divorce, both you and your spouse have the right to buy and sell property on your own. Once you file, however, these rules change and all the property you own as individuals becomes lumped together into what is known as marital property.
Once the court considers all the marital property that a couple owns, it will then determine how to best distribute that property between each spouse. After the court issues the final divorce decree, the property is divvied up between the couples and becomes their individual property.
What all this means is that after you get a divorce you will have to change your estate plan to reflect your new property ownership realities. Your plan will have to cover all the property you now own as an individual, and not the property you owned as a couple when you were married.
Every spouse in Florida is entitled to receive an inheritance once the other spouse dies. When you created an inheritance plan, your attorney probably advised you about this spousal share and took that into consideration when helping you decide on your inheritances.
However, now that you are divorced, your former spouse has no right to inherit from you and you have no right to inherit from your former spouse. Because of this, you’ll need to reevaluate your inheritance choices.
Divorce will also prompt you to review your medical directives, powers of attorney, and any other estate planning device that you’ve created. Addressing these concerns sooner is always better than waiting too long.