Divorcing couples in Pennsylvania have a lot to think about, and revising their estate plans may not be among their greatest concerns. However, dealing with estate planning matters should become a priority soon after finalizing issues like property division and spousal support.
The way divorce affects wills in Pennsylvania
When a Pennsylvania resident dies after getting a divorce or during the course of a divorce, any provisions in their will that favor their former husband or wife should become ineffective. However, this provision of Pennsylvania law does not apply when the wording of a provision that favors a former spouse suggests that it should survive a divorce. This rule goes into effect when the grounds for divorce are established.
Trusts and powers of attorney
Irrevocable trusts do not become ineffective after a divorce, which means that an irrevocable trust can benefit a former spouse. This is because the terms of the trust predate the divorce, and changing them is not possible. On the other hand, revocable trusts are treated in the same way as wills.
Revising powers of attorney and health care directives is advisable after a divorce if these documents give a former spouse the authority to make important medical or financial decisions. Another important matter that is often overlooked after a divorce is changing the beneficiaries on life insurance policies and retirement plans.
Major life events
Attorneys with estate planning experience may advise their clients to revise wills, trusts, powers of attorney and beneficiary designations after a divorce or another major life event like a marriage or the birth of a child. Attorneys might also suggest replacing wills with trusts that give testators more control over the distribution of their assets and could provide tax benefits.