Many individuals pride themselves on having their estate plan documents in order. But in actuality, estate planning is a dynamic process that must undergo periodic reviews and modifications to keep up with one's changing lifestyle.
Such is the case for couples contemplating divorce. It's important to update estate plan documents even before the filing your divorce petition.
The ramifications can be serious
Nobody likes to contemplate worst-case scenarios, but the sad fact is that they play out every day. Consider what could happen if you were to become incapacitated before filing for divorce but had never updated your power of attorney.
That would give your spouse unfettered access to all of your financial and legal document, as well as put them in the driver's seat making potentially life-or-death decisions for you. It would be quite rare if that were actually your real intention.
Courts are cognizant of the changes wrought by divorce
A medical directive/power of attorney is usually viewed by the court as revocable once a divorce action has been filed. Because divorces can take months or even years to resolve, it's understood that a future ex-spouse is far less likely to have your best interests foremost in his or her mind when making important decisions.
Since few have access to magical crystal balls, it's wise to utilize the legal tools available to protect one's interests. Before filing your divorce petition, go over all of your estate planning documents. Making changes now protects your interests and clarifies your intentions.
Powers of attorney often revocable in divorce
Just because the court recognizes that when couples are in the throes of divorce the other spouse should not have decision-making rights does not ensure that the person appointed to act as your agent would be your choice.
Furthermore, if you become incapacitated and your estate documents name your spouse as your guardian, only filing a petition for divorce does not necessarily negate that appointment as the world saw a couple years ago with the Lamar Odom/Khloe Kardashian divorce.
In the above case, although the divorce was well-established, it had not been finalized, which allowed Ms. Kardashian to step into the role of guardian over Mr. Odom when he was still in a coma.
Remain in charge of your life and assets by modifying estate documents
There are ways to ensure that you remain the captain of your ship during divorce. The court does not know your full situation and doesn't have access to all of the nuances that affect your life and assets -- but you do. That's why even before filing your petition for divorce, it's a good idea to have your Texas family law attorney make the necessary changes to your estate plan before filing for divorce.