Divorce is never easy. Adding the complexities of estate planning can make it harder. However, estate planning during the divorce process needs to be considered, says a recent article entitled “How to Change Your Estate Plan During Divorce from the Waco Tribune-Herald.
Some of the key things to bear in mind during a divorce include:
Is your Last Will and Testament aligned with your pending divorce? The unexpected occurs, whether planning a relaxing vacation or a contentious divorce. If you were to die in the process, which may take more than a year, who would inherit your worldly goods? Your soon to be ex-spouse? A trust created to take care of your children, with a trusted sibling as a trustee?
Are your beneficiary designations up to date? For the same reason, make sure that life insurance policies, retirement accounts and any financial accounts allowing you to name a beneficiary are current to reflect your pending or new marital status.
Certain changes may not be made until the divorce is finalized. For instance, there are laws concerning spouses and pension distribution. You might not be able to make a change until the divorce is finalized. If your divorce agreement includes maintaining life insurance for the support of minor children, you must keep your spouse (or whoever is the agreed-upon guardian) as the policy beneficiary.
Once the divorce decree is accepted by the court, the best path forward is to have a completely new estate plan prepared. Making a patchwork estate plan of amendments can be more expensive and leave your estate more vulnerable after you have passed. A new will revokes the original document, including naming an executor and a guardian for minor children.
The will is far from the only document to be changed. Other documents to be created include health care directives and medical and financial powers of attorney. All of these are used to name people who will act on your behalf, in the event of incapacity.
It’s a good idea to update these documents during the divorce process. If you are in the middle of an ugly, emotionally charged divorce, the last person you want making life or death decisions as your health care proxy or being in charge of your finances is your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Some states, like Missouri have statutes which may provide some protection.
Talk with your estate planning attorney so your attorney they know you’re going through the divorce process. They will be able to make further recommendations to protect you, your children and your estate during and after the divorce.
Reference: Waco Tribune-Herald (Oct. 18, 2021) “How to Change Your Estate Plan During Divorce”