Who are your picks for the Oscars? Perhaps you have your bet on the dramatic, eerie Joker or the gritty war movie 1917, directed by Sam Mendes. Regardless of whoever wins, it’s safe to say that this preceding year has been a great one for filmmakers and moviegoers alike. However, while we all love to see drama onscreen, having drama in your life off-screen is far less entertaining.
But, alas, people go through events that shake up their lives, and, sometimes, drama cannot be avoided. In this article, we will talk about how your estate plan should adopt to some of the biggest dramatic changes that you might (but hopefully will not) go through at some point.
Once a divorce is finalized, a spouse will be stricken from your will and estate plan automatically in most states. However, people don’t always get divorced when they decide they want to. If you and your spouse are estranged but still married, he or she could still take under your estate if you die. Another example is if you and your spouse are still in one another’s medical plans as POAs, that might still be valid.
The wisdom of having an estranged family member as your power of attorney is debatable. You want your POA to have your best interests at heart—something that is not always the case even in the most amicable of divorces. Bottom line: change your estate plan to reflect changes between you and your spouse, even before the divorce papers are finalized.
Other Peoples’ Divorces
Divorce is hard outside of the nuclear family. You might have loved your child’s spouse but, now that they are divorcing, it would be in the family’s best interest to exclude your child’s spouse from your will. Make sure that you keep drama to a minimum by including people who are actually part of your family in your will. If this is a change you feel you need to make in your estate plan, do it sooner, rather than later.
A Death in The Family
A death in the family works the same way. While the deceased family member will not take your asset if they die, the person who does get the asset might not be your second choice. If you intended to leave money or property to a family member who dies, make sure your estate plan reflects that change. Pick where you want the money or property to go in the absence of your original choice. This way, you can keep your estate plan concurrent with your wishes.
Estrangement is, sadly, common in families. Every family has its ups and downs, and statistics show that 10% of American mothers are estranged from at least one of their adult children. That same study found that 40% of people have been estranged from a family member at one time or another.
Whether that estrangement is permanent or temporary is something that only you can answer. However, make sure that your estate plan reflects estrangement. Include or exclude people, depending on what works best for your family dynamics. You can always make changes later on—they key is keeping the plan current.
Another interesting statistic is one regarding illness in families. Six out of ten Americans say that they have a family member who is chronically ill. Sickness is something with which we are all, unfortunately, familiar. Therefore, considerations for end-of-life care (such as a medical directive or power of attorney) are an important part of estate planning. You want medical professionals to act in a way that reflects your wishes, and you also want your power of attorney to do the same.
Needless to say, this article is somewhat of a bummer. While, hopefully, you never have to experience these events, it’s important to be prepared just in case. Keeping the drama to a minimum will allow you to deal with them and move forward. By being proactive in your estate plan, you can prevent a bad situation from getting even worse.