If you and your spouse are divorcing this year, it’s important to determine what changes you’ll need to make to your estate plan. (If you don’t have one, you should put one in place once your divorce is final.) Not all of the changes have to wait until the divorce decree is issued. Let’s take a look at a few.
Texas probate law makes things easier in a way because it considers an ex-spouse the same as a deceased one. The law says that “all provisions in the will, including all fiduciary appointments, shall be read as if the former spouse and each relative of the former spouse who is not a relative of the testator had failed to survive the testator.” That means if you don’t have alternates named, you’ll need to name new people.
Changing your beneficiaries on accounts
You’ll need to do the same for any accounts where you’ve named your spouse as the beneficiary. Remember that these changes need to be named directly with the financial institution or other entity that holds the account.
There may be terms in your final divorce settlement that require you to keep your spouse as a beneficiary on some things, like a life insurance policy, so it’s typically best to wait until the divorce is final to make these changes. Further, you can’t fully disinherit a spouse to whom you’re still legally married in Texas.
What changes can you make before the divorce is final?
Likely, your spouse has power of attorney (POA) over your health care and is your health care agent. If you’re not comfortable with them having that responsibility, you can remove them from these positions at any time. You don’t have to designate a spouse (or a relative). You can appoint just about any adult you trust and who agrees to take on these responsibilities.
Each estate plan, like each divorce, is highly unique. Your best course of action is to consult with an estate planning professional as you proceed with your divorce.