Does a Divorce Automatically Invalidate a Power of Attorney Document?
It is extremely common for people in their estate plans to grant their spouses power of attorney in the event of their incapacitation. However, if you should get divorced, you obviously do not want your spouse to still have this power. The question then becomes whether your divorce 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 to protect your best interests
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. Simply return to your estate planning lawyer, 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 beneficiary information on various policies, 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 power of attorney that would be considered counter to your best financial or medical interests, unless 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.
For more information on handling power of attorney and other estate planning documents after your divorce, meet with an experienced divorce lawyer at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates.