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Estate Planning and Divorce


During a divorce, there’s a lot to think about. You have to consider terms such as child custody, child support, and property division. Typically, estate planning is not top of mind for divorcing couples. However, those getting a divorce should put more thought into this than they do. Some portions of an estate plan will likely become void in the event of divorce, or you may wish to change some of the provisions of your estate. When considering your life after divorce, there are some items pertaining to your estate you’ll want to pay particular attention to.

Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, and Advanced Medical Directives

If you’ve named your spouse as Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, or Advanced Medical Directive, you should review this during a divorce. Under Pa. Cons. Stat. Section 5605, if your spouse is designated as any of these titles, the courts will automatically deem it invalid. If there is no successor named, the entire document is deemed as invalid. However, if you revise your Power of Attorney after a divorce and name your ex-spouse as Agent, the courts will consider the document valid and legally binding.

Wills and Revocable Trusts

According to 20 Pa. Cons. Stat. Section 2507, if you’ve left a portion of your assets to a spouse in a revocable trust and have established grounds for divorce, those assets are diverted to your other beneficiaries. They will then control those assets. If you’d rather another beneficiary take control of those assets, you must officially change these documents.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to review the alternate fiduciaries named in a will. These could be your former sister-in-law or brother-in-law, and you may no longer be as comfortable having them control your finances. These designations are not automatically deemed void after or during a divorce, so it’s important to give this aspect of your estate plan some thought.

Guardianship of Minor Children

Before divorce, you may think it’s fine to have your spouse’s sister take the children in the event that you and your spouse both pass away. After divorce, you may want to change those arrangements. If you pass away and you still have minor children, these provisions are not changed during divorce. If you want to change who will become guardian of your children if you pass away, you need to change your will.

Other Terms to Consider

In Pennsylvania, if your spouse is named as a beneficiary for your retirement account, IRA, 401(k) or any other benefits, these too, become ineffective once you divorce. As such, you must also review these, determine who you would like to serve as beneficiary, and then officially change the documents to reflect your wishes.

Getting a Divorce? Speak to a Pennsylvania Estate Planning Lawyer

There’s a lot to think about during a divorce, and estate planning typically isn’t the first thing divorcing couples think of. However, estate planning is just as important as property division and any other part of your divorce. Without changing your estate plan, your spouse could receive benefits you no longer want them to receive, and those you want to receive it, such as your children, may not be granted those assets by the courts.

If you’re going through a divorce, contact the Scranton estate planning, probate and trust administration lawyers that can ensure your estate plan is completely intact and ready for the transition. At Haggerty, Hinton & Cosgrove, LLP we will ensure your estate plan reflects your current needs and preferences and take care of the entire process for you. Call us today at 570-344-9845 or contact us online so we can discuss your estate plan and ensure it reflects your true, and current, wishes.





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