Many divorced people never review their wills and estate plans. Of those that do, most do it after they're divorced. However, it may be advisable to make changes as soon as a marriage breaks down. Powers of Attorney for Health Care and Property are common documents used in estate planning. If you're in a bad marriage or in the midst of divorce, they provide one example why you shouldn't wait until after divorce to change your estate plan. These two Powers grant your "agent", the right to make decisions regarding your property and health care, if you are unable to make the decision yourself. One decision your agent may make is withdrawing life sustaining medical care. The majority of married individuals name their spouse as their agents. Illinois law provides that if your spouse is your agent and you divorce or become legally separated, your spouse's powers are terminated. Yet, it may take years for a marriage to break down and a couple more before a divorce is filed and finalized. If you are uncomfortable having your spouse empowered to make health care and financial decisions for you, you need to act. Even if you do not have a Power of Attorney for Health Care, your spouse, even an estranged one, may have authority under the Illinois Surrogate Act to make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated. If divorce is: a possibility or a reality; you have no Power of Attorney for Health Care; and you want to eliminate the possibility of your spouse making health care decisions on your behalf-execute a Power appointing someone other than your spouse as your agent.
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