You just received the Decree of Dissolution, which is the final order dissolving your marriage to your spouse, approving the settlement agreement (if one was offered), dividing the marital estate and imposing child support (where appropriate). You think, for good or for ill, you’re done. No more lawyers. Finally!
Unfortunately, you are not done yet. In addition to any important steps you must take to separate your assets and liabilities per the agreement or order, there are some other items you really should address to get your legal house in order, now that you have transitioned from a married to a single person.
I. Update (or Create) Estate Planning Documents
You may have created a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Living Trust while married to your former spouse which gave all of your probate assets (assets which are solely owned by you, that do not have a beneficiary, payable on death or transfer on death designation, and are not titled to a trust) to him/her. Thankfully, once the Divorce Decree is issued, your former spouse cannot collect under the old Will or Trust.
Indiana Law (29-1-5-8 and 30-4-2-15) provides that all provisions of a person’s Will and Trust which benefit their (former) spouse are revoked upon divorce. This means that as soon as the Court issues the Order Dissolving the marriage, any bequests to the former spouse are treated as null and void, and the interest passes as if the former spouse predeceased the decedent. He or she cannot also serve as the Personal Representative or Trustee. However, the interests of other persons named in the Will/Trust (i.e. former stepchild) are not revoked by operation of law. As such, it is good practice to draft a new Will/Trust which applies to your current situation and reflects and carries out your desires.
If you previously named your former spouse as your Attorney in Fact under a Power of Attorney, he/she will no longer have the power to act as your agent upon the entry of the final dissolution decree. IC 30-5-4-4.
Any authority granted in a Funeral Planning Declaration to a former spouse to direct the disposition of your body or to make arrangements for funeral services and other ceremonies after your death is revoked upon the finalization of your divorce. IC 29-2-19-15(1).
Nonetheless, it remains important to sign new Powers of Attorney, Health Care Representative Appointments, and Funeral Planning Declarations to designate a new person or person(s) who is now best suited to take care of your finances, your health care decisions, and your final remains if you are no longer capable of managing these tasks yourself.
II. Beneficiary Changes
Indiana also has a law that revokes upon divorce the provisions in favor of a former spouse made as a pay on death or transfer on death for certain assets. IC 32-17-14-23. However, be careful! This law does NOT automatically revoke provisions in favor of a former spouse as beneficiaries of a life insurance plan (I.C. 32-17-14-2), and retirement plans governed by ERISA, IRAs, and other tax-deferred plans (IC 32-17-14-2.5). To avoid a situation where your former spouse unintentionally receives assets as a designated beneficiary, you should meet with an estate planning attorney to update all your beneficiary designations as soon as possible following the finalization of your divorce.
III. Homestead Deduction
If you received a homestead deduction when you were married, and you want to maintain the deduction on the property after the divorce, you must reapply for the Homestead deduction for the assessment date following the finalization of your divorce. Go to http://www.in.gov/dlgf/2344.htm for the Homestead Deduction Claim form.
As worn out as you may be by the divorce process, your work and involvement with lawyers should not end with the final court order. To preserve your assets for your intended beneficiaries, and to make sure the correct people are named to make decisions for you if you are incapable, you should make an appointment to meet with an estate planning attorney to discuss your estate plan as soon as possible after the conclusion of your divorce.
About the Author:
Jessica has a heart for helping people of all ages with their family law, estate planning, and probate needs. Whether it be a young family planning for a new baby or an older person planning their legacy, Jessica is dedicated to helping them fulfill their goals and put their mind at ease as to how their affairs will be handled after they are gone.
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