How Divorce Can Affect Estate Planning

Going through a divorce doesn’t just mean ending a marriage. For couples who have been together for decades and have acquired high-valued assets along the way, divorce can mean deciding who gets the house, who gets the land, and even who gets the family-owned business. In this scenario, the focus should be on estate planning. An estate plan is essentially like a will and testament declaring that a spouse can handle your money, paying bills, filing taxes, making life and death decisions over your well-being in the case that you are seriously hurt or have fallen ill, etc. 

“Even if you’ve never done any estate planning documents, there’s a good chance that your ex is the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, retirement account, or a “payable on death” bank account,” (LegalZoom). While filing for a divorce, you must remember to also file new documentation stating that your future ex-spouse will no longer have a say healthwise, financial-wise or any otherwise is the state of your well-being. Estate planning also deals with who gets to have custody of the kids in case something happens to you. If you are uncomfortable with your ex-spouse obtaining custody of the kids or letting them handle your assets after death, make the decision now to change your estate or the decision will be made for you.

In some divorce cases, the next of kin that can have possession of your assets are your in-laws a.ka. your ex-spouse’s parents. Letting your in-laws have control over land and money acquired through a marriage that no longer exists is awkwardly frustrating, to say the least. Your ex could also still have a say in how your possessions are divided up and given in the case of your untimely demise. Of course, in the case of the kids, even if you don’t name your former spouse as guardian of your children, not naming a new one could have a family member on your ex’s side be chosen to take care of the kids.  

Make sure you know the estate laws of the state that you live in to prevent things like this from happening. After you do that, make sure that you create your estate plan during or after your divorce proceedings (depends on your state’s mandates). You can do this by either updating the original estate plan or requesting to fill out and file a new one. Handling this important and often not talked about step during a divorce also prevents your ex from becoming an inheritor of your various trusts (i.e. retirement, insurance policies, investments, etc.). You can also get a hold of the companies that oversee each individual trust to revise and update who will get what in the event something unfortunate happens to you.

Divorce isn’t just about ending a relationship. It also requires that you rearrange your estate plan to fit your new life. Like marriage, divorce is a lot of work and requires a lot of detailed planning and organization. 

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