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You’re Divorced From Your Spouse, Not Your Power of Attorney

It is not uncommon for people to give their spouses power of attorney when developing an estate plan in the event of their death or incapacity. A power of attorney is a very powerful document that gives the agent the ability to gift your assets and to sign your name on documents. However, if you should get divorced, you obviously do not want your spouse to still have this power. The question then becomes whether the divorce itself will automatically revoke a power of attorney, or if there are extra legal steps you need to take to do this yourself.

In most places around the country, a divorce does not automatically revoke an attorney-in-fact designation. The only exceptions are for power of attorney documents made in the following states: Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

How do I protect myself?

If you developed your document in New York, it is not enough for you to be divorced to revoke your power of attorney. Fortunately, it is rather easy to change your attorney-in-fact designation. Call the estate planning attorneys at the Falcone Law Firm and revoke the previous document and name a new attorney-in-fact, whether it be a friend, family member, or other third party.

While we strongly advise you to change your power of attorney documents as soon as possible after your divorce, along with all of your estate planning documents like your will, any trusts, or health care proxy, you’ll also want to change your beneficiary information on various policies and financial accounts. But there is some good news and it is important to note that if you do not change your power of attorney, that does not mean your former partner can wreak significant havoc on you or your estate while incapacitated.

Attorneys, in fact, cannot take any actions with a power of attorney that would be considered counter to your best interests, unless you personally direct that those actions are specifically allowed by the document. Furthermore, the attorney-in-fact is not legally allowed to benefit from any transaction conducted on your behalf.

older couple filing paperwork

For more information on handling power of attorney and other estate planning documents after your divorce, meet with an experienced Estate Planning attorney at the Falcone Law Firm.

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