Separating or divorcing your spouse is an emotional process that drastically changes your life. You could be settling into a new place to live or getting another job. Your focus is on the next chapter of your life and with that, you should also consider how your estate plan needs to change. Failure to update your estate plan could mean that your affairs will not be handled the way you thought they would.
Often we see people with an estate plan file it away for safekeeping and never think of it again. There are important reasons to periodically review your estate planning documents and ensure that they are current. Typically purchases or sales of real estate, business and other assets, as well as births, deaths, marriage and divorces should be reflected in your updated estate documents.
Marriage and Divorce
Generally, it is a good idea for married couples to have an estate plan. You will want to ensure that your new spouse is addressed, and any children or stepchildren. With separation comes the time to change your estate plan. It is important to at least have a will that directs how your want your estate handled and by whom, otherwise if you die, your spouse is likely to manage your affairs and inherit the bulk of your estate. Once divorced, failure to remove your old spouse from all of your estate documents, could mean that even though you are divorced, your ex may still manage your affairs and take title to your property.
The internet has improved our lives in many ways. We have an incredible amount of information at our fingertips. You can now find legal templates online that at first glance may appear cheaper than hiring a lawyer. While tempting, we recommend that you just don’t do it. You are unique and so is your estate plan. Those forms are not. You have no way of knowing if the form is right for your situation or if you completed it properly. You can’t ask detailed questions of a website, and a website won’t ask questions to help you either. Your estate and the loved ones you will leave behind are too important to leave to chancer. Unintended errors and omissions could unravel your intentions. For instance, certain assets left unaddressed may be held up in probate court. Using an online template may appear cheaper, but having an incomplete estate plan, or worse, could result in unintended consequences, your wishes not being met and significantly more time and money incurred at the expense of your heirs.
Typically, people want to avoid it! Probate can be a very long, stressful and expensive process. The length of time involved in resolving issues can drain the estate of resources, so less money is left to your heirs. The time following your death will be difficult and emotional for those who survive you.If you can eliminate probate with your estate plan, that may be the best gift you can leave your family. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you avoid probate and additional expenses, preserving the value of your estate for those who you really want to have it.
What Should I Update?
If you are separated or getting a divorce, you may be wondering what needs to be updated. If you already have a comprehensive estate plan, you need to review your Last Will and Testament and, Revocable Living Trust if you have one, Health Care Directive, Power of Attorney, deeds and more. Some other important items to consider may include retirement plans, life insurance policies, bank and financial accounts and perhaps business-related documents. An experienced attorney will help you identify what needs to be changed and how to update it most efficiently and cost-effectively.