Divorces can be emotionally devastating and often traumatic. Most everything in your life is affected, including your children, your finances, and your living situation. Not only can the process of divorcing be complicated and challenging, it requires that old arrangements, agreements, and plans be reassessed and re-evaluated. This means, you need to re-read your will and entire estate plan to review the decisions you made while you were married.
Reconsider Your Estate Plan
If you drafted a will with your spouse after having a child or registered property together after getting married, there’s a good chance you made collective decisions on important legal matters. When you face a divorce, you need to reconsider those decisions and those documents to make necessary changes for living life apart:
Did you draft a will with your spouse?
If so, you should consult an estate planning attorney to understand California’s legal requirements for revoking your existing will and drafting a new one. Since wills only affect the transference of property after one or both of you dies, divorce proceedings have no effect on the document’s integrity or lack thereof.
Who’ll act as your child’s guardian if you or your spouse passes away?
Depending on the circumstances of your divorce, you may want to nominate a guardian for your children or reconsider your current selection. Does your ex-spouse want to take care of your son or daughter if you pass away? If you both die unexpectedly, what happens then? Guardianship is an important issue that must be addressed during a divorce, especially if it wasn’t before.
Does your spouse have power of attorney over your estate or assets?
If you’re separating on less-than-pleasant terms, you’ll want to revoke your spouse’s power of attorney before a divorce is concluded. To do that, you may need to appoint a new executor, and you’ll have to notify your spouse of the changes. Your lawyer can help you draft the right papers and inform your spouse of the new arrangement.
Does your spouse have an ownership stake in any of your properties?
If you and your spouse bought a home together, you need to understand the terms of ownership. Many married couples opt for joint tenancy arrangements, which give each spouse an equitable ownership stake in a given property. You may also have made arrangements for who that property will go to after one or both of you dies. You need to review and understand the potential ramifications of your past decisions.
Consider What Your Spouse Has Access To Right Now In The Event You Become Incapacitated Or Pass Away Prior To The Divorce Being Finalized
Is your spouse named as a beneficiary in your will or trust?
Even if it’s not a joint document, removing your spouse’s name from a trust isn’t as simple as using a line of Whiteout.
Does your spouse have access to any joint accounts?
Regardless of the answer, how much of those funds is your ex-spouse entitled to in the event that you die—tomorrow or decades from today?
What to Check After Your Divorce Is Final
After a divorce is final, you’ll want to review your estate documents, assets, and finances a second or third time. Does your private or workplace life insurance policy name your spouse as a beneficiary? Is your ex entitled to withdraw funds from your retirement account or 401(k)?
Remember that just because the divorce has gone through on paper doesn’t mean all the agreements you signed with your ex-spouse have automatically been invalidated. You need to undertake a systematic review of your documents, obligations, and estate assignments.
Play it safe, and don’t leave anything to chance. If you’ve missed something, your ex’s attorney probably won’t. Contact us today to clean up your estate and ensure that what’s yours now remains safe forever.
Do You Need To Speak With An Attorney About Estate Planning?
If you need to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer please contact us online or call us directly at 800.756.5596 to first register for one of our free, informative seminars. Your attendance will qualify you for a special discount for our estate planning services should you decide to make a free appointment at the conclusion of the seminar and choose to proceed with us. We proudly serve clients throughout California with offices in Torrance, Newport Beach, Orange, Woodland Hills and Pasadena.