Estate Planning and Divorce

In the midst of divorce, the paperwork can seem endless, but one task is almost always overlooked: scheduling an appointment with an estate planning lawyer!

Whether you’ve already put together an estate plan with your ex or you’ve never gotten that far, now is the time to make necessary decisions about your wishes for your money, personal affairs, and assets a single adult.

Whether you’ve already put together an estate plan with your ex or you’ve never gotten that far, now is the time to make necessary decisions about your wishes for your money, personal affairs, and assets a single adult.

For those who do have wills and trusts in place, changing out decision-makers and beneficiaries is likely an immediate issue to address. For example, if your ex was previously listed as your estate executor or trustee, you will likely want to choose someone else to serve in this role. Beneficiary designations on accounts such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts must also be updated, as these designations override whatever is in your will or trust, nor are they invalidated by your divorce decree. For that reason, it’s critical to update all beneficiary forms wherever your ex-spouse may be named. 

If your ex-spouse is named as your healthcare proxy or power of attorney, he or she may still be given the role of medical/financial decision-maker should you be incapacitated before your divorce is finalized.  Again, you will want to talk to your attorney about updating these documents to ensure that someone you ultimately want and trust is in line to oversee your affairs and speak for you if for some reason you can’t. 

A word of caution: any amendments to your legal documents and financial accounts should be made with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. Once a divorce is filed, the ability to change legal documents and make certain financial moves are limited. Before you contact the administrator of your life insurance policy, retirement account, etc. or even remove an ex’s name from a joint account, you’ll need to make sure that you have the legal right to do so under state law. 

Finally, if you have children with your ex-spouse, there are additional estate planning considerations that you will need to make, as an inheritance put aside for your minor children could end up in the management of your ex until the children turn 18. If you don’t feel particularly good about your ex overseeing your children’s money if something happens to you, it would be a smart idea to set up a trust that benefits the children but appoints a person that you trust to oversee their funds until they are of legal age.

Getting Help

We realize that when you’re going through a divorce, working with another lawyer and signing more documents is probably the last thing you want to think about. Still, all of these reasons should show you why it’s so important to update your estate planning documents as you start your new life. If you don’t have an estate planning attorney, and you’d like to explore your options, we’d be happy to assist you. Simply call us at (800) 244-8814 to schedule an appointment at one of our offices located throughout the state of California.

If you have any further questions about asset protection planning and strategies to shield your wealth, or if you’d like to have your current asset protection plan reviewed to make sure it still meets your needs, please contact us at our California asset protection office at 800-244-8814 to set up a consultation.

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