I know that neither of these topics is particularly cheery, but in some cases they do go hand in hand. If your marriage is going downhill, and you anticipate a divorce, or are in the process of getting divorced, it makes sense to take two immediate steps:
Name someone other than your spouse as your healthcare proxy; and
Revoke any durable power of attorney that allows your spouse to sign papers on your behalf, and designate a new power of attorney to act for you if you are incapacitated.
These two steps should be taken right away. As long as you are still legally married, these documents generally continue to be in effect, and as you probably know, a divorce can take a long time to finalize.
Comprehensive estate planning is important, but it is unrealistic to think that most couples can deal with it while going through a separation or divorce. Estate planning can wait a bit, but these other steps cannot wait. My office is happy to assist you with this, and credit the amount towards an estate plan, or if you are working with a family law attorney, he or she should be able to assist you with a new health care proxy and power of attorney.
But I made it two spouses, three children, and two businesses ago. When your life changes, your estate plan should ideally keep up with those changes. You do not need to revise a will every time something changes in your life –many documents are drafted to take some changes into account. However, as part of your financial planning, you should revisit your estate plan every 3-5 years, and definitely in the case of a divorce or marriage.
Divorce: In some states marriage or divorce nullifies a will, health care proxy or power of attorney. In other cases it may not. If you and your spouse are on good terms and you want him or her to make the decisions about your medical care, it is best to revise your health care proxy to make it clear that this is your desire. Similarly, you may not want your soon to be former spouse to have the ability to write checks from your bank account, but even if divorce nullifies a power of attorney, simply being in the process of divorcing will not. Revoke or change your health care proxy, will, and power of attorney if you realize that your spouse is no longer a trusted partner and you are heading your separate ways.
Wills, trusts, health care proxies and powers of attorney are powerful documents; take a look at them from time to time and be sure they are still relevant to your life.