Changing Your Estate Plan After Divorce

Roughly half of all marriages in the U.S. end in divorce. As you might imagine, the end of a marriage could wreak havoc on a carefully considered estate plan. However, many divorcees delay in updating their wills and trusts.

The Effects of Divorce on an Estate Plan

Spouses are often named as beneficiaries. It’s important to note that such designations will not change until the divorce is final. Should you become incapacitated or pass away before the divorce is completed, your spouse may inherit or otherwise gain control over your assets. While a judgment of divorce will automatically extinguish the rights your spouse has to your property, he or she may receive unintended benefits unless you take steps to modify certain documents in your estate plan first.

Review Your Current Estate Plan

The first thing you need to do is to review your current estate plan to look for instances where your spouse is referenced. If you include your spouse as a beneficiary in your will, for example, then you’ll need to revise the document and choose a new beneficiary. You may also have selected your spouse as the executor of your will. If this is the case, you’ll need to select someone else to serve in that role.

If you do not currently have a will, then the laws of intestacy will apply. This means your spouse would receive a specific share of your property at the time of your passing. By writing a will that makes clear that you’re going through the steps of divorcing your spouse, you may be able to prevent this from occurring. You’ll want to sit down with a lawyer to discuss your options here to make sure that your property is protected.

Draft a New Estate Plan

Any time there’s a significant change in your familial relationships or property is a good time to consider drafting a new estate plan. Because divorce is a significant change, you may want to consider drafting an entirely new will or trust document depending on how your property is being disseminated. Working with a trained legal professional will give you the knowledge and the peace of mind that your property will be properly cared for in the event of your passing.

It’s important to be as detailed as possible in your estate planning documents. The goal is to make your intentions clear and prevent situations where unhappy heirs contest the will. In such situations, your surviving family members may need an estate planning litigation lawyer.

There are many additional considerations to make in an estate plan, such as what types of end-of-life decisions will be made, how funeral arrangements will be handled, how debts will be paid after your passing and similar decisions. If you’re in the middle of a divorce or you have recently ended a marriage, do not delay in addressing your estate plan. It is always a good idea to have a backup person in place to handle these decisions if the original person was your spouse. People often give this power of attorney to a sibling or a child.

Review Regularly

It is generally a good idea to review your estate plan regularly just to make sure that nothing significant has changed since the documents were drafted. If you find that something significant has changed, such as a relationship with one of your beneficiaries or the nature of the property you wish to bequeath, then you’ll want to sit down with your attorney and draft either a new will or an amendment, which is known as a codicil. Divorce is really just one example of a change to your situation that may precipitate the need for an update to your estate planning documents.

It is important to keep your estate planning documents as up to date as possible so that there is no confusion at the time of your passing. Confusion leads to the need for an estate planning litigation lawyer. Fortunately, this can be avoided by keeping your documents current.

The Legal Help You Need

If you need legal assistance, turn to the Knee Law Firm. We have experience with estate planning, litigation and administration. Call our office in Hackensack, NJ, at (201) 996-1200 today.