After going through a divorce, one has to figure out how to navigate life as a single person again. This often includes a new home, new budget, new schedule and new family dynamic, particularly if there are kids involved. One important item that should not be forgotten post-divorce is to make changes to any estate plan to make sure it reflects your wishes as a non-married person.
It is imperative that you revise your will shortly after your divorce is final. If you don’t, your assets may not go to whom you would like. In Georgia, if your ex-spouse is a beneficiary of your will but you do not revise your will before you die, your spouse will be treated as if he/she predeceased you and any amount bequeathed to him/her will go back into your estate to be distributed according to the rest of your will and/or estate plan. On the one hand, it’s great that the state of Georgia recognizes that you would not want your ex to remain a beneficiary of your estate. However, on the other hand, the solution that the portion bequeathed to your ex will go back into your estate for distribution may not be what you desire. For example, imagine a woman’s will bequeaths her entire estate to her now ex-husband, with her stepdaughter (the ex-husband’s daughter) as secondary beneficiary. If this woman does not revise her will after the divorce, her stepdaughter may end up getting all of her estate, when she would rather it had gone to a blood relative. Even if you would be satisfied with this outcome, it is still prudent to revise your will after divorce to make sure it is in line with your wishes.
It is also very important that you revise the beneficiaries of any life insurance and retirement accounts. A divorce will not invalidate the beneficiaries on these accounts/policies so, if you pass away before you change it, your ex could get a windfall. Contact the particular institution for each account/policy and make sure you fill out the proper form to change beneficiaries. Each institution may have a different form so it is important to be thorough.
In the end, it is important to revisit any estate plan post-divorce to make sure it complies with your wishes. You may find that an estate tax that applied when you were married no longer applies to your smaller post-divorce estate. Or vice versa – the estate tax may now apply to you with more assets in your individual name. Contact an estate planning professional with any questions and to make any revisions to your estate plan, as appropriate.