In honor of Women’s History Month, BRMM Law’s shareholder Danielle Mayoras recently appeared on WWJ News Radio to provide some important estate planning tips for women. While making updates to estate planning documents can often be overlooked during a divorce or other life events, it’s vital for women to take the time to do so.
Here’s what Danielle discussed on the radio segment:
Being Married Doesn’t Mean Your Spouse Can Make Medical Decisions on Your Behalf
The unexpected can happen at any time — regardless of age. When people are married, they might mistakenly believe their spouse can step in to handle healthcare matters if they become incapacitated. However, being married doesn’t mean your spouse can make medical decisions for you unless there is a power of attorney in place or you go through the probate court.
“A lot of times when women are married, they’re assuming that their spouse can make all their medical and financial decisions. But that’s not the way it works,” Danielle cautioned listeners.
A healthcare power of attorney is a document that lists the person who has the legal right to make your medical decisions. Without a power of attorney, your spouse would be required to go to court to obtain guardianship over you in order to make these healthcare decisions.
Review Your Documents When Major Life Events Occur
When certain life events happen, it’s essential to take a look at your estate planning documents to see if they still reflect your wishes. Or, if you haven’t drawn up an estate plan, a major life event might be the best time to do it. “I think it’s important with life events for women — whether it’s a marriage, whether it’s birth, whether it’s a divorce — to actually do the documents, update the documents, and make sure you have the people you want making your decisions,” Danielle remarked on the radio segment.
The birth or adoption of a child can be a good time to create or revise your estate planning documents to name a guardian and prepare a trust or will. It is also important to update your estate planning documents when going through a divorce, especially your healthcare power of attorney. This should be done as soon as possible to limit the decisions your soon-to-be former spouse will be authorized to make for you in case of a medical emergency.
Other life events that can trigger an estate plan review can include marriage, the death of a spouse, or a sudden change in your financial situation. But even if none of these events occur, it’s a good idea to conduct a periodic review to ensure your documents are current with any changes in the law — and your objectives.
Be Sure to Update Beneficiaries Upon Divorce
Most people don’t want to leave their former spouse anything after they’ve gone through a divorce. If you’ve parted ways with your spouse, take a look at any estate planning documents that might provide assets to them. If your previous intentions no longer reflect your wishes, be sure to update your paperwork. In addition to your will and any trusts, this also includes the beneficiaries on your retirement accounts, deeds, and insurance policies.
Although Michigan law removes a former spouse from your will, it’s crucial to be aware that your divorce decree doesn’t automatically change your beneficiary designations or trusts. It also doesn’t alter your contingent beneficiaries. In the event you fail to make the necessary updates and something happens to you, your ex-spouse could receive the proceeds in your retirement account or a life insurance policy, whether you want them to or not. Similarly, if you wish to bequeath something to your former spouse, this should be specified in your will.
Contact an Experienced Michigan Emergency Estate Planning Attorney
It’s crucial to understand the importance of updating your emergency estate planning documents to ensure your chosen beneficiaries will receive the property you want them to have when you pass. Danielle and the estate planning attorneys at Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras work with clients regarding a wide variety of estate planning matters. Schedule a consultation today by calling (248) 213-9514 in Michigan or (941) 222-2199 in Florida to learn how we can assist you. You can also use our simple online contact form.