How Divorce Affects Your Power of Attorney
Powers of AttorneyThere are essentially two types of power of attorney: 1) Immediate and 2) Springing. An "immediate" power of attorney becomes effective as soon as the person signs it. Therefore, the agent named as power of attorney has immediate rights to act on behalf of the principal for all financial and legal decisions granted within. A "springing" power of attorney becomes effective when the principal becomes 'incapacitated'.
In most states: a divorce decree does NOT revoke a financial of healthcare power of attorney in favor of the ex-spouse. In Missouri, a divorce decree DOES revoke such a designation [RSMo s404.717.1(6) and RSMo 404.810]. Therefore, if you want your ex-spouse to remain your agent, you must execute a post-divorce Power of Attorney (POA). In all states: an agent spouse can use either power of attorney before formal revocation and/or final decree.
While healthcare POAs are generally 'springing' powers, most financial POAs are 'immediate'. Either way danger exists.
Good PracticeTo avoid unintended consequences, be sure to make your divorce attorney aware that you have an estate plan. You should really be sure to contact an attorney who practices in estate planning to ensure your wishes are properly carried out.
It's recommended to revoke your power of attorney in favor of your spouse as soon as you file for divorce (or earlier). This will avoid any complications with your spouse using the power of attorney while you hash out contentious issues regarding your assets.
The easiest way to revoke your power of attorney is to prepare a new POA specifically revoking your old one in favor of your spouse.
You must also communicate your revocation to your agent-spouse. This would make the spouse liable for damages if notified of the revocation [RSMo s404.717.1(2)].
Finally, be sure you contact ALL institutions who might have your old POA on file (doctors, hospitals, bank, etc.) 3rd parties can continue to rely on the document until THEY'RE notified.