Making the decision to divorce and going through the divorce process is never easy. Most people just want it all to be done and over with quickly so they can get on with their lives. Unfortunately, many fail to take the final, necessary step before riding off into the sunset; updating their estate plans.
There are many important aspects to consider when obtaining a divorce. Issues of child support, alimony, division of assets and family pet ownership must be resolved. An integral part to any divorce is estate planning and following are some important aspects to updating your plan:
- Do not wait: It is not necessary for your divorce to be finalized before you change your estate planning documents. If something should happen to you during the divorce proceedings, your soon-to-be ex-spouse may end up with all of your hard-earned assets.
- Update your beneficiaries: Certain assets will pass to your family without having to go through the probate process or passing according to the directions in your most recent will. Proceeds from life insurance policies, certain retirement benefits and the like will be distributed to the person or people you have designated as the beneficiaries on those policies. Prior to or during your divorce, contact the companies where you have your policies and remove your ex-spouse as the beneficiary.
- Choose a guardian: Most likely, the surviving parent of your children will obtain physical custody should one of you pass away while the children are still minors. However, there is no requirement that you put your ex-spouse in charge of financial benefits your children may be entitled to from your estate. If you do not trust your ex-spouse’s financial abilities, there are a number of options available, including setting up a trust.
- Avoid do-it-yourself plans: In an effort to save time, many people turn to do-it-yourself estate plans. However, these can do much more harm than good; creating more problems for those you love after you are gone. It is important to make sure your new estate plan complies with state laws and actually does what you intend it to after your death.
A lawyer can help
If you are contemplating or going through a divorce, it is vitally important to update your will, trust, beneficiary designations and other estate planning documents sooner rather than later. Consult an experienced estate planning attorney if you do not have an estate plan, have not recently updated your plan or are splitting from a spouse. A lawyer knowledgeable about divorce and estate planning can help preserve your assets for those you most love.