After a medical emergency at a Nevada brothel landed Lamar Odom in the hospital, the former NBA star’s future looked dim. Many speculated that he wouldn’t survive. Now, with his estranged wife Khloe Kardashian and family at his side, Lamar appears to be making progress – regaining consciousness, breathing on his own and communicating with loved ones.
While Lamar’s health crisis took hold, Khloe wasn’t merely in Nevada, then later in California, to offer moral support. As his legal wife, she was also reportedly making medical decisions regarding Lamar’s care.
You see, despite the fact that the two signed their divorce papers this past summer, the backlogged California family court had yet to approve the divorce when Lamar fell ill. (On October 21, Khloe’s attorney successfully asked the court to dismiss the couple’s divorce filing.)
According to Dallas Divorce Attorney Abby Gregory, “Since their divorce wasn’t final, Khloe was still legally married to Lamar when his health crisis occurred. If he didn’t have a medical power of attorney or medical directive, she probably had the right to make decisions about his medical care.”
While few would argue Khloe didn’t have Lamar’s best interests at heart, many people would feel different about a future ex making those types of decisions.
Would You Want a Future Ex Making Medical Decisions for You?
Most people don’t expect to experience a life and death medical event during a divorce, but accidents, unexpected health issues and death can occur in the midst of a divorce. This can be especially problematic in contentious divorce cases.
Without putting proper paperwork in place or changing existing paperwork, you could have someone you don’t trust making health decisions for you.
As Abby explains, “With highly contested divorce cases, we advise our clients to make certain estate planning decisions in advance. Along with updating your will, you can revoke any powers of attorney (financial and medical) that are in place and assign new people to carry out those rights and powers.”
Keep in mind, divorcing couples are typically limited to changing powers of attorney, medical directives and wills. “During the divorce, the Standing Order in most counties prohibits you from changing beneficiaries on life insurance, pensions or retirement accounts,” Abby says.
What Happens to Your Estate If You Die Mid-Divorce?
Many people, assuming they will survive their divorce alive, neglect to update estate planning documents, because following divorce, such documents are generally null and void anyway.
However, if you don’t remove your spouse as a beneficiary on your will, and you do die before your divorce is finalized, your spouse remains a beneficiary.
“We’ve had cases where someone dies during the divorce process, and the divorce is completely eliminated. Instead, the survivors end up in probate court where property is divided pursuant to the deceased person’s will. If the deceased person neglected to remove the spouse they were trying to divorce as a beneficiary, that spouse will get everything coming to them in the will, just as if the couple had never divorced (which they haven’t),” says Abby.
Update Powers of Attorney, Medical Directives and Beneficiaries Post-Divorce
According to Abby, “Post-divorce, you have to re-designate your beneficiary designations, because the divorce nullifies previous designations. Along with assigning new beneficiaries, some people, even though they agreed to divorce, still want their ex-spouse as the beneficiary on certain accounts or life insurance policies, often for the benefit of the children.”
If you haven’t done so during the divorce process, be sure to prepare updated estate planning documents (wills, powers of attorney, medical directives, etc.) as soon as your divorce is finalized.
Take Control of Your Future
If you’re planning to divorce and want to limit the rights of your future ex to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf, contact an experienced divorce attorney near you. He or she can explain the options available to you in the state where you reside.