After the conclusion of your divorce, you may feel a sense of relief and closure as this long drawn out process has come to an end. However, there are still some steps you may need to take after your final decree of divorce. For instance, there are a number of documents that you may need to take action and change in order to protect yourself and your family. Your Florida Divorce Attorney can discuss with you the documents you may want to take a second look at and alter in the near future after your divorce.
After a divorce, one of the main issues that brings concern to individuals is what happens to a preexisting will or trust, the property involved, and to whom the property was divested to. Under Florida Statute 732.507(2) “Any provision of a will executed by a married person that affects the spouse of that person shall become void upon the divorce of that person or upon the dissolution or annulment of the marriage. After the dissolution, divorce, or annulment, the will shall be administered and construed as if the former spouse had died at the time of the dissolution, divorce, or annulment of the marriage, unless the will or the dissolution or divorce judgment expressly provides otherwise.” Similarly, Florida Statute 736.1105, voids any prior designation to a spouse in a revocable trust. Therefore, if you named your spouse in your will or trust, those designations will automatically be deemed void. If you have named other individuals in your documents, along with your spouse, it is likely that they will take the remainder of what your spouse was originally given. However, if your spouse was the only taker, it would be imperative to designate a new beneficiary. Further, even if others are named in your will or trust, the property devised may no longer be in your possession after your divorce. Therefore, you are encouraged to take a fresh look at your estate planning documents and designate new beneficiaries as well as note the property changes that may have taken place.
Beneficiary designations, such as life insurance policies, annuities, or payable on death accounts, are handled in a similar fashion. Florida Statute 732.703(2), provides, “A designation made by or on behalf of the decedent providing for the payment or transfer at death of an interest in an asset to or for the benefit of the decedent’s former spouse is void as of the time the decedent’s marriage was judicially dissolved or declared invalid by court order prior to the decedent’s death, if the designation was made prior to the dissolution or court order. The decedent’s interest shall pass as if the decedent’s former spouse predeceased the decedent.” Again, the court protects individuals from inadvertent transfers of funds to divorced spouses. Therefore, even if you do not change your spouse’s name on your designation, they will not be eligible to receive any of the funds of such an account and the secondary taker will be the new beneficiary. However, if you do not have a secondary individual named, it is crucial to make these changes and take action as these funds could then be stuck in probate for a significant period of time. In contrast, if you do wish to keep your spouse as the beneficiary of these policies, you must take action to reaffirm your beneficiary designation after the divorce has been finalized. This action will render the statute null in your case.
One of the final documents that a recently divorced individual may need to consider changing is their power of attorney documents, both durable and health care. Again, under Florida Statute 709.2109, if a former spouse is named as a Durable Power of Attorney, they will lose this authority upon the filing for divorce. This statute is unique as it voids this designation upon the filing of a divorce rather than the finalization of a divorce. Even though the power is legally removed, it is important to still take action to ensure your spouse does not attempt to fraudulently use their power of attorney during this time. Therefore, you may need to formally revoke this document, file in the public record, and provide copies to the financial institutions you regularly conduct business with. In contrast, under Florida Statute 765.104, a former spouse who was designated with a Health Care Power of Attorney will lose authority, upon the finalized dissolution action. Therefore, if you wish to change your health care designation or appoint a new authority, you should do so during the pendency of your proceedings.
All of these documents may be the last items on your mind during or after your divorce, however, they are critical to your future protection and ease of estate planning. Therefore, discuss the necessary changes that may need to be made with your Florida Divorce Attorney and they will be able to discuss with you the relevant statutory requirements and direct you on this path.
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