For The Newly Divorced in Arizona
For the newly divorced in Arizona, a change in existing estate plan documents may be necessary to avoid any claims by the former spouse against the decedent’s estate. While California law invalidates a gift or disposition in a will or trust to an ex-spouse upon a decree of divorce, the disposition can be enforced if there is clear and convincing evidence that the decedent intended the ex-spouse to receive the gift or disposition after the divorce. A legal separation that does not divide the marital assets will have no effect on a trust. In most cases, a divorcé or divorcée should update any existing estate plan documents for several reasons.
Estate plan documents typically include durable power of attorney and agent for healthcare documents naming the former spouse as the first agent. There couldn’t be a worse situation in which the ex-spouse with a grudge has the authority to write checks out of the ex-spouse’s estate the power to withhold life-sustaining nutrition and hydration over a former spouse who can no longer communicate. A simple update to these documents can help ensure that the prepared person’s wishes are observed.
Often a couple will have an estate plan drafted after marriage and never revisit the plan, leading to potential disaster in the event of a divorce. A typical estate plan will clearly name a spouse as a beneficiary. An example of this in a will is, “To my wife, Jane Smith, I leave X.” The will example could merely identify Jane Smith as “the Jane Smith who is at this time my wife.” Other provisions in the will could require a gift to Jane even if the couple is no longer divorced, such as, “A divorce or annulment shall have no effect on the disposition or gift to Jane Smith.” Such “honeymoon clauses” written after the nuptials could catch the newly divorced off guard if they haven’t looked at their estate plan since it was drafted.
Estate planners know the kinds of questions to ask regarding the estate, therefore, they will almost certainly ask if a life insurance policy benefits the former spouse. Such policies for the benefit of the former spouse are not invalidated by a divorce decree. Since many insurance policies are designed to pay the death benefit to the surviving spouse, a new divorce usually requires a review of beneficiary designations in insurance policies. It is advised to consult with an experienced estate attorney such as the Estate Attorney Rocklin CA locals trust.
If you have a question about divorce in Arizona, please call to speak to one of our experienced Scottsdale and Phoenix Arizona divorce attorneys at (480)305-8300.
Special thanks to authors at the Law Office of Alexandria Goff PC for insight into Estate and Family Law.