How Divorce Can Affect Estate Planning

Posted by Josh Valentine | Mar 27, 2019

If you are going through a divorce, you may have considered how your property will be divided when the divorce is finalized. You should also consider what you want to happen to your estate in the future and who will make decisions for you if you become incapacitated. If you are going through a divorce, it is time to update your estate plan.

Preparing to Update Your Estate Plan

Part of the divorce process is figuring out what is in your marital estate by gathering tax records, bank account information, insurance policies, credit card statements, and any documents that pertain to retirement accounts and life insurance. You will also want to use these documents when updating your estate plan.

Many people name their spouse in their wills, trusts, and accounts. If you have left your property to your husband or wife, clearly you will need to update your estate plan around the time you finalize your divorce. You may need to obtain a final copy of your divorce decree to make amendments to some accounts. 

Update Your Power of Attorney

Another thing to consider is who will make decisions for you if you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself. You may have trusted your spouse to make these decisions on your behalf. Divorce can change that. 

Even if you remain on good terms with your spouse after a divorce, your spouse may no longer want the responsibility of being your power of attorney. You can revoke a prior power of attorney by destroying all copies or by providing notice to the person with power of attorney (your agent) in accordance with state law. 

When updating power of attorney forms, you might consider naming another person such as an adult child, close friend, or relative to be your agent--the person who can manage your healthcare decisions and finances if you are no longer able to express your personal wishes.

Selecting a power of attorney is one of the most important decisions that you will make. A person with power of attorney should be familiar with your assets and your wishes and should also be a person whom you trust. 

Naming Future Guardians

Divorce can change what you envisioned for your family because you and your spouse will no longer be managing the same household. You can use an estate plan to name the person you want to take care of your children in case something happens to you. If you have children from a prior relationship or marriage, this is especially important. 

If you decide to name a future guardian for your children in case something happens to you, talk to the person you have in mind to ensure that they are ready and willing to take on the responsibility. Consider naming the person that you want to be a future guardian singularly--not that person and their spouse--in case they divorce or predecease their spouse. 

Contact a North Carolina Family Law Attorney

Do you have questions about how divorce can affect your estate plan? Contact the attorneys at Caulder & Valentine Law Firm, PLLC by filling out our online form, or call (704) 470-2440.

About the Author

Josh Valentine

You could say Josh has a God-given ability for sustaining long-term relationships. He and his wife first met in elementary school and went to Gardner Webb University (GWU) together, where they tied for number 1 in their class. Then, they both started law school on the same day of their graduation and got married during their first semester. He has also known his law partner Blake Caulder since Kindergarten. Theirs is the perfect partnership. “He’s the brake; I am the accelerator,” Josh says. Both Josh and his wife attended an innovative program at Charlotte Law School that allowed them to complete law school in two years instead of the typical three. His wife graduated and passed the North Carolina bar at age 20, becoming one of the youngest attorneys in the state. He readily admits she’s smarter than him. Of course, Josh went on to pass the North Carolina State Bar himself and later the South Carolina State Bar. While in school, he was Associate Editor of the Law Review and received accolades like Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society membership, Order of the Crown, Pro Bono Honors, CALI Awards (highest grade). In his career as a lawyer, he has been admitted to the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is a member of the American Association of Premier DUI Attorneys, and completed training for DWI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. Josh has also been named to the Top 40 Under 40 for Criminal Defense by The National Trial Lawyers, the Business North Carolina 2019 Legal Elite for Criminal Defense, and the 10 Best Attorneys for Client Satisfaction by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys three years in a row (2016, 2017, and 2018). Community involvement has been important to Josh all his life. In high school, he participated in building a Holocaust museum that has become internationally regarded. He and his wife are actively engaged in animal rescue, which currently means seven cats and two kittens. He served in prison ministry and assisted with fundraiser banquets there, and he provides pro bono and reduced fee legal services to those in need. As if all of that weren’t enough, Josh also mentors high risk youth and helps with his church’s youth group. He participates in other community volunteer projects involving construction, remodeling, drywall, painting, and landscaping. He’s an active student of the Bible and has traveled to Israel, Brazil, and Europe for mission work. No one can say Josh isn’t a well-rounded individual. In his spare time, he likes to play softball, basketball, and tennis, and he can play the piano and trombone. Sometimes on weekends, believe it or not, he enjoys pouring and finishing concrete with friends who own a concrete and grading business. In his law practice, Josh has made it a point to develop positive relationships with officers, clerks, and district attorneys, which has proven invaluable in delivering positive results for his clients. It’s important to him to both listen to his clients and fight for them. Law enforcement officers have important responsibilities to keep our communities safe and uphold the law, but one of the responsibilities of attorneys is to make sure officers do their job correctly. Josh considers it his job to hold them accountable for their actions. Josh is a person of deep faith. He knows that the established order of our universe and strength of America’s Judeo-Christian influenced court system is built on God’s word. His passion to serve each client with innovation, excellence and integrity is a byproduct of his faith. When asked why he became a lawyer, Josh says, “All through my life, I have personally witnessed family members and very close friends endure divorce, child custody battles, bankruptcy, civil lawsuits, and even fraudulent criminal accusations. I both saw and experienced the stress such events can place on an individual, and I realized that everyone, at some point in their life, needs hope, comfort, and encouragement. In each one of those situations, the person who was best situated to provide that vital support was their lawyer. So that’s why I became an attorney. I understand what you are going through, and I’m here to help you. Our office is focused on meeting your needs and guiding you through what may be the most difficult time of your life.” Education: Charlotte School of Law J.D., Magna Cum Laude Class Rank – 21 of 328 Associate Editor of Charlotte School of Law Law Review Certification and Concentration in Employment Law Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society Order of the Crown Pro Bono Honors CALI Awards (Highest Grade)—Lawyering Process I and Contracts I Full Scholarship Gardner-Webb University B.S. in Accounting, Summa Cum Laude Distinguished Senior Student Award – Highest GPA Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honorary Society Bar Admissions: North Carolina State Bar