Important Estate Planning Issues Related to Divorce
If you are preparing to end your marriage, it is vital to understand that your divorce may be one of the most challenging experiences of your life and affect you for years to come. While you are likely bracing for your new reality as a recently divorced single person, one thing you should not overlook as you begin the next chapter of your life is your estate plan. It is very likely that if you have a will, trust, or other estate planning documents in place, you have your ex-spouse listed as a beneficiary. You may also have them included in beneficiary designations for specific accounts, such as your retirement account or life insurance policy. When you have decided to end your marriage, completing the divorce process is just the first phase of restructuring your life.
Updating Your Estate Plan
While it’s technically possible to create an estate plan on your own, it is generally best to work with an experienced attorney to ensure your plan covers your needs and interests. A good estate plan has four main components:
- Last will and testament. This document is your means of conveying your last wishes to your loved ones, including who you want to inherit your property and how to handle your remaining debts and other liabilities. If you do not have a legally enforceable will in place when you die, then these decisions will fall to your state’s laws of intestate succession, and your family will need to endure a complex and arduous probate process.
- Trust. A trust can potentially help your family avoid the need to undergo probate, allowing you to place ownership of your assets into a trust when you die. The trustee you name will be responsible for distributing the contents of your trust per your instructions.
- Durable power of attorney. Power of attorney is the ability to make legally binding decisions on behalf of someone else. For example, if you become incapacitated, unresponsive, or otherwise unable to sign your name and make legal decisions on your own behalf, the individual you designate as the holder of your durable power of attorney will make these decisions for you.
- Advanced care directive. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to the type of medical care they want to receive in a problematic situation. Your advanced care directive will include your preferences for life support, palliative care, and resuscitation in specific medical situations.
An experienced estate planning attorney can help you configure your estate plan to your specific needs and preferences. They can also help you update your estate plan when your life changes, such as after the birth of a new child or after divorce. This is a relatively straightforward process. The most important thing is that you arrange for your required updates as soon as possible.
While it may seem like an additional layer of stress following divorce, updating your estate plan can be beneficial in many ways and provide you with peace of mind during a difficult time. The process of going over your existing estate plan and making necessary changes may be somewhat tedious, but ultimately it is the best way to ensure your estate plan accurately reflects your new reality after divorce.
Potential Estate Plan Changes You Must Make
If it has been some time since you have reviewed your estate plan, it’s vital to reach out to an experienced attorney you can trust to assist you in making the necessary changes. Some of the things you may need to do include:
- Revoking your will. It’s possible that your ex-spouse is deeply entrenched in many aspects of your will, so ultimately, you may need to throw it out entirely and create a new one from scratch. It’s also possible to edit sections of your will to ensure your ex-spouse does not receive any of your property after your death.
- Updating your health care proxy or holder of your advanced care directive. If you have named your ex-spouse as your health care proxy, you probably don’t like the idea of them making critical medical decisions on your behalf in a dangerous medical situation. Your attorney can help you assign a new proxy and update all sections of your advanced care directive to accurately reflect your new reality.
- Updating beneficiary designations. If you were to die soon after your divorce, failing to update your estate plan could mean your ex will inherit the bulk of your assets. Your attorney can not only help you remove your ex as a designated beneficiary but also help you review your investment accounts and other assets to remove any other beneficiary designations that you no longer wish to maintain.
- Reviewing guardianship designations. Guardianship is a significant consideration for any parent creating an estate plan. Your attorney can help you create a new guardianship plan that reflects your post-divorce life.
These are just a few examples of the things you must consider when you have recently divorced and need to update your estate plan. Working with a reliable attorney is the best way to implement your desired estate plan changes as quickly as possible.
What to Expect from Your Attorney
A good divorce attorney may be able to provide you with the legal advice you need to change your estate plan to align with your post-divorce life. If not, they can recommend an estate planning attorney for you to work with once your divorce is complete. Your attorney will carefully review your current estate plan, your beneficiary designations across all your accounts, and any other applicable contracts you may have in place. Next, they will help you determine which areas of your estate plan require the most attention and begin implementing the changes you need.
The attorneys at Bickford, Blado & Botros have years of experience guiding clients through their divorce proceedings, and our firm has solid experience with all types of divorce-related legal matters. If you are concerned about your estate plan following divorce, or if you are preparing to end your marriage and want a divorce attorney you can trust, contact Bickford, Blado & Botros today to learn how our firm can assist you.
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