The number of divorces in the senior population is rising. According to a study by sociologists, divorce rates of people aged fifty and above have doubled between 1990 and 2010. While this statistic includes remarriages, surprisingly, it accounts for forty-eight percent of first marriages as well.  Researchers attribute this to a number of factors including frustrations over retirement plans, overall finances, and the fact that children, who may have kept the marriage together, are now older and out of the house.


Divorce in our aging population has been titled “Gray Divorce” and it shows a steady increase in numbers. Divorce impacts your life in many ways. It is important to plan ahead for your future in light of your divorce to ensure that you will be protected under any circumstances. This begins with creating your estate plan or revising your existing plan.  Let us share a few key considerations when it comes to your estate planning after divorce.


1. It is time to change your beneficiaries. In many states after a divorce, former spouses are either removed from the disposition provisions of your last will and testament by law or your former spouse is presumed to have predeceased you in the eyes of the court. This means any provisions in your last will and testament related to your ex-spouse will be invalidated by divorce. This may or may not be your intention, but it is important to discuss your goals with your estate planning attorney and change your planning to reflect your wishes.


2. You need to choose a new decision maker immediately. In many marriages, spouses name each other as the agent under their durable power of attorney and the surrogate under their health care documents. This means your spouse can make your legal, financial and health care decisions should you be incapacitated. It is important to update this part of your estate planning when you are getting divorced. You need all of your estate planning documents to name someone who you can trust with these important decisions should you be in a crisis.


3. Prevent confusion and potentially costly outcomes.  If you do not update your estate planning after your divorce you are creating both a confusing and potentially harmful scenario.  For example, if you were sick or injured, your doctors might still recognize your ex-spouse as your medical decision maker. Further, your bank might still honor your power of attorney and provide your former spouse access to your accounts. When your estate plan does not change to reflect your divorce, poor communication could result in a scenario that could potentially take months to clear up.


We know divorce at any age is difficult. Do not neglect yourself during this time. Take the time to focus on updating your estate plan with your estate planning attorney. When you need help do not wait to schedule an appointment with Attorney Alan Hougum.