Marriage is a legal arrangement as much as it is a social one. Ending a marriage through divorce can have a number of legal implications that might not even be on your radar screen.
One of the most important considerations after divorce is how your estate plan will be affected. Understating the impact of divorce on your estate plan and the kind of updates you will need can help you avoid serious unintended results.
Some legal instruments change automatically upon divorce, but still need to be updated
Under Illinois law, upon divorce, any portions of your will that provide for your now ex-spouse will be automatically be revoked. However, while this may help prevent the extreme misstep of leaving all your assets to someone to whom you are not married at the time of your death, it does not eliminate the full range of problems that can accompany failing to revise a will for divorce.
For one thing, the automatic revocation only happens after a divorce is final, so if you happened to die while the divorce was moving through the court system, the will would stand as written. Furthermore, even after the automatic revocation, you need to designate where the items that were to be left to your former spouse will now go; if you fail to do this, these items will pass through the operation of law as though you had no will at all.
Of course, wills are just one part of the estate planning picture, and there are many other things that you will have to update after divorce. As with wills, aspects of trusts pertaining to a spouse that you could personally revoke and agency powers granted to a spouse through powers of attorney are automatically voided upon divorce. Again, however, these instruments will have to be revised to name someone to supplant the former spouse.
Changing beneficiary designations after divorce is also crucial. Retirement investments and other accounts with a designated beneficiary typically do not have an automatic revocation, and you must proactively change the beneficiary designation on those investments and accounts. For example, in Illinois, a spouse’s designation as a life insurance policy beneficiary is not automatically revoked after divorce. Many individuals fail to change their life insurance beneficiary designation, and as a result, wind up leaving the proceeds of their policy to a former spouse. Cases involving ex-spouses and subsequent spouses or other family members fighting over life insurance proceeds because the beneficiary designation was never changed after a divorce are disturbingly common, but relatively easy to avoid, in Illinois.
Get in touch with an Illinois attorney experienced in estate planning and family law
If you have recently been through a divorce, or if you are in the midst of a divorce, you likely have many legal concerns on your mind. But, do not overlook the estate planning implications of divorce – it can have costly consequences. Get in touch with an Illinois family law and estate planning attorney today to learn more about the intersection of your divorce and your estate plan.