In Florida, once a married couple divorces, the ex-spouse is no longer entitled to the “surviving spouse’s elective share” of an estate, but property may be left to an ex-spouse in a Last Will and Testament. The best thing to do if you are separated or divorced is to update your will so there is no issue about where your assets should go.
Some assets like life insurance or retirement accounts may pass outside of an estate through beneficiary designations or as the result of joint ownership rather than through a will. Bank accounts held jointly with an ex-spouse or other property held in joint tenancy with an ex-spouse will pass to the ex-spouse upon death unless the accounts are retitled to change the ownership.
In order to change your beneficiary designation from your former spouse to a child or a third party, you must complete new beneficiary designation forms for each individual fund or insurance provider. You can name specific people or a trust as beneficiary. Each fund or insurance policy may have different requirements; you may need to provide a copy of your divorce decree to make the necessary changes.
A few other considerations regarding changes to an estate plan following a divorce include:
Don’t wait until the divorce is final. You don’t have to wait until your divorce is final to revise your estate plan. This is especially important if your divorce is likely to take a number of months or years to complete.
Review your executor and/or trustee choice. If you die while your children are still minors, your ex will likely become legal guardian – but this does not necessarily mean they should be your executor or the trustee of your children’s inheritance.
Update your Advance Medical Directive. If you become incapacitated, do you want your ex to be making decisions about your healthcare? If not, you need to update your advance medical directive as well as your living will and any other advance directives that name your ex as a decision maker.
At The Estate, Trust and Elder Law Firm, P.L. we help our Treasure Coast clients develop and implement comprehensive estate planning strategies personally tailored to their unique situation, needs, and goals. Contact us for your initial consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in Fort Pierce, Stuart, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, and Okeechobee.