How divorce affects your Colorado estate plan

Divorce can wreak havoc on your estate plan, so you need to review it carefully following a split.

If you are contemplating divorce, you likely have many things on your mind. You may be worried about the effect a split will have on your children, paying the bills for two homes instead of just one, whether or not you'll be able to get alimony payments, etc. Your thoughts will likely be primarily focused on the day-to-day practical and financial impact that a divorce will have on you right now. You could also be dealing with the difficult emotions that divorce sometimes brings up. You might not yet given any thought to the long-term effect of your divorce, but you need to consider what dissolving your marriage will do to your estate plan.

The law

Colorado state law automatically revokes any bequests or appointments made to your former spouse and to any relatives of that spouse (in a will that was drafted while you were married) following a divorce. This includes specific property or assets that you left to your spouse - or to your spouse's relatives, other than children you share - in a will or revocable trust, as well as any appointments naming your spouse as your personal representative/executor or power of attorney. See Colorado Revised Statutes Section 15-11-804 for more information.

Depending on the language used in the will document itself, revoking any bequests or appointments to your former spouse or their relatives (like, for example, your former sister-in-law or brother-in-law) could, in essence, void the entire document. This will leave your estate at the mercy of the state's intestacy laws, passing assets to your remaining living heirs. This will also mean that the court will appoint a personal representative and executor for your estate, and possibly even a power of attorney to handle decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated or a guardian for your minor children, instead of leaving those important responsibilities to someone of your choosing.

Starting over?

If you've already gone through the process of estate planning once, you might not relish the thought of doing it again. Once you are divorced, though, it is something that needs to be done. Luckily, you don't necessarily have to start from scratch or "reinvent the wheel."

In fact, if you desire, you can still leave the same assets to your former spouse or their loved ones, but you need to make sure that the bequest designates that the person isn't your spouse anymore. It may literally be as simple as substituting a few words in your will, power of attorney and guardianship documents, but only an experienced estate planning attorney will know for sure how much updating is necessary to protect your assets, minimize any estate or gift tax consequences for your heirs and ensure that your wishes are followed.

To learn more about how divorce affects your Colorado estate plan, and to update yours following a split, contact the Englewood or Louisville law offices of Vincent, Romeo & Rodriguez, LLC. Call the firm at 303-500-5859 or 303-720-7260, respectively, or contact them online.