Upon finalizing your Kansas divorce or Missouri dissolution of marriage, you need to review your existing estate planning documents and make the appropriate revisions. Likewise, if you did not previously have an estate plan, this is the time to have the necessary documents prepared. The following are steps you should take to revise or create an estate plan:
1. Revise your will or trust. The law in both Kansas and Missouri provides that any provision in a will or revocable trust, that is for the benefit of a former spouse, is ineffective. This means that your will or trust is not revoked, it is merely interpreted as if your ex-spouse died before you. You should review the following provisions of your existing will or revocable trust:
a. Confirm that you have given your property to the people of your choice and have described any conditions prior to them receiving the property;
b. Your ex-spouse is probably named as your primary executor or trustee. You need to name someone to serve who you trust to fulfill your wishes and who is likely young enough to be alive at the time of your death; and
c. The parents of minor children are motivated to have an estate plan so that they can nominate a guardian who would raise the children in the unlikely event that both parents die prior to the children becoming adults. You need to consider what family member or close friend would be willing and able to take on this significant task. Ultimately, a judge would have to decide who should serve as guardian for the minor children.
2. Revise your living will and/or health care directive. These documents describe what medical treatment you do or do not want if your death is imminent. It is unlikely that you want your ex-spouse to make life and death decisions on your behalf. You need to name a family member or close friend who lives nearby and you trust to make end of life decisions on your behalf.
3. Revise your powers of attorney. Typically, powers of attorney are prepared to make medical or financial decisions on your behalf, if you are unable to make them for yourself. Again, it is unlikely that you want your ex-spouse to make these decisions on your behalf. You need to name a family member or close friend who is experienced in dealing with financial matters and has the courage to make significant medical decisions on your behalf.
4. Change Your Beneficiary Designations. You likely have several assets for which there is a beneficiary designation. These beneficiary designations are controlling over the provisions of your will or trust. Accordingly, after your divorce is finalized, you need to immediately review and revise these beneficiary designations. Examples of assets that may have a beneficiary designation are as follows:
a. Life insurance policies;
b. Retirement accounts such as an IRA, 401(k), or pension;
c. Bank accounts;
d. Brokerage accounts; and
e. Real estate.