Although New York law may revoke any prior bequests to your former spouse in an unchanged will, problems could arise if you failed to amend your other estate planning documents, including your trusts after you divorce your former spouse. You can call our office and schedule a consultation to help you understand your estate planning options after divorce.
The New York legislature amended the probate laws dealing with revocable dispositions or testamentary substitutes. According to the new law, divorce not only changes the beneficiary designations within your will previously naming your former spouse as your beneficiary, but it also changes other testamentary documents, including power of attorney designations.
What this means is that if your former spouse had a power of attorney – either financial or medical – the law assumes you meant to revoke her of these powers after your divorce. Similarly, jointly owned bank accounts will automatically terminate and sever the jointly owned account into separate accounts or accounts that you would own as tenants in common. Furthermore, if you previously appointed your spouse as your personal representative or executor to administer your will, New York law assumes that you meant to revoke or change the designee.
However, in some situations, your former spouse could challenge the state statute and petition a court to uphold the previous designation. If your former spouse can prove that you intended to leave your will or power of attorney as-is without changing your previous designation with clear and convincing evidence, a Surrogate Court may uphold the previous designation and leave your former spouse as your attorney-in-fact. To minimize any future litigation you should discuss the effects of divorce on these power of attorney or healthcare directive documents with our office.