Important Changes for Divorced Couples in New North Carolina Financial Power of Attorney Law

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “What is an Absolute Divorce?”


Estate planning is something that many couples fail to take seriously until it is too late. It is common for people to think they are too young or too busy or too poor to bother to construct a plan to protect their family in the event something bad happens. The reality is that an estate plan can benefit almost everyone, regardless of age or income. Bad things can happen to anyone and when they do, they often happen without warning.


Fountain-pen-Charlotte-Divorce-Lawyer-Lake-Norman-Family-Law-Attorney-300x235Though estate planning is very important for everyone, it can also occasionally lead to legal troubles. One instance where estate plans can create problems is divorce. A plan that may have made perfect sense prior to the divorce can become a real problem after the divorce is final. For instance, naming a spouse as your sole heir or placing him or her in charge of your medical care is a good idea while married and a terrible one after divorcing.


It is for this reason that those who have drawn up an estate plan need to spend time during the divorce making changes. Sit down with an attorney and find out the steps that need to be taken to remove your ex from your estate plan. This will often involve drafting a new will to make clear that your former spouse will not inherit. It also typically requires changing beneficiary designations on insurance and retirement accounts. Finally, it may mean redrafting any powers of attorney that are floating around, making clear that your former spouse no longer has authority to make decisions on your behalf.


This last issue was recently addressed in an important revision of North Carolina’s Uniform Financial Power of Attorney Act. The newly revised law went into effect on January 1, 2018 and marks the first substantial rewriting of the law since the early 1980s (meaning it was long overdue). The law deals with designating someone to serve as financial power of attorney in the event that you become incapacitated and are no longer able to handle your own financial affairs. Appointing a financial power of attorney is a crucial step in any estate plan, ensuring that someone is able to pay your bills, pay for medical care and generally keep your financial affairs in order while you recover. Without a financial power of attorney your loved ones will need to go to court and ask that a guardian be appointed to manage your affairs, a difficult process that can easily be avoided by designating a financial power of attorney in advance.


Given how old the law is, it is perhaps not surprising to learn that it was a bit outdated. One good example is that as it relates to divorce, no language was included to make clear that once a couple breaks up, the financial power of attorney is null and void. This meant that if you were not careful and failed to appoint a new financial power of attorney, your ex could be the person making the most important decisions on your behalf should you become ill and incapacitated, something that can clearly lead to trouble.


The new law solves that problem, making it less risky if a person fails to immediately revise their estate plan. The new rule says that the financial power of attorney terminates if there is a final divorce decree between the couple. The only exception to this termination is if the financial power of attorney specifically provides that it shall continue after divorce, offering flexibility for couples that may want it.


If you find yourself facing a complicated family law matter, then you need the help of experienced family-law attorneys in Charlotte, North Carolina who can help guide you through the often confusing process of divorce. Please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.







The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.





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