Joseph H. Beale Attorney At Law, PLLC

You need to adjust your estate plan once you file for divorce

Filing for divorce can quickly cause a lot of stress and complicated emotions in your life. Even though you may have planned on ending your marriage for some time, taking the steps necessary to begin the process can be harder than people anticipate.

Underestimating the emotional difficulty of divorce can leave people vulnerable to overlooking critical considerations. Severing your legal ties to your former spouse can take a lot of time and planning. The longer you were married, the more intertwined your finances, careers and social lives have become.

With so many issues on the table, it is quite easy for someone to overlook important details. One of the easiest to overlook is the need to revisit your estate plan or last will. The terms that you set within the document likely reflect your marital situation at the time. Single or divorced people have different planning needs than married people.

Divorce means you likely need to remove your ex from most documents

Whether you created a trust, used transfer on death accounts or simply expanded on your wishes in a last will, your spouse likely features prominently within those documents. Some people empower their spouses in their financial or medical power of attorney documents. Others name their spouse as trustee or beneficiary to a trust.

Many spouses also allocate items of both financial and emotional value to their spouse in the event that they would die first. Now that you will soon divorce, your ex will likely already receive a portion of your marital estate for their own use. You will want to remove them as a beneficiary and instead allocate those assets to your children, close friends, loved ones or even charity.

Unless you remain close friends, you likely won't want your ex making medical or financial decisions in the event of incapacitation, so removing them from power of attorney documents or your living will is also important. Updating your estate planning documents is critical for your safety and peace of mind.

Plan to protect your children and their inheritance

Even if your children are already teenagers, there is a possibility, however small, that you may not live to see them become adults. If that were to happen, your ex would probably assume control of any assets that you left for your children.

Even people you trust can make questionable decisions when it comes to large amounts of money. Creating a trust is one way to leave assets for your children without risking it falling into the hands of your former spouse.

There are unique estate planning solutions for anyone going through a divorce. You should sit down to talk about your last will and other legal documents, as well as your pending divorce, with an attorney who understands both family law and estate planning law in Virginia and Washington D.C.

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