Going through a divorce in Florida is always difficult, particularly when support and custody issues are thrown together with marital property division. For this reason, it is easy to overlook something as important as estate planning during a marriage dissolution. In many cases, spouses who know or assume that they are beneficiaries of an estate plan will stay silent on this issue, perhaps hoping that everything will stay the same after the divorce is finalized.
The bottom line of estate planning during a divorce is to keep in mind that spouses retain certain legal rights. Nonetheless, this does not mean that people are precluded from trying to exert control over their assets as much as they can. If there is no estate plan in place, divorcing spouses should think about the worst-case scenario: passing away in the midst of the proceedings and all assets going to the surviving spouse according to Florida intestacy laws. If there is a plan in place, this would be a good time to start reviewing it.
With regard to health care advance directives under 765.101 of the Florida Statutes, a good idea would be to change the designated surrogate from the spouse to another trusted and competent individual. A similar measure should be taken in relation to durable powers of attorney, which could become problematic during contested divorce proceedings.
Revocable trusts should also be evaluated and amended as needed. It is highly recommended to appoint a trustee who is not a future ex-husband or ex-wife. It is important to think about minor children as beneficiaries of the trust since the surviving parent will have custody over trust distributions until they reach adulthood. Adjustments made to estate plans during the divorce process should be reviewed once again after the court issues the marriage dissolution decree.