There are many things to consider when undergoing or contemplating a divorce. If your marriage is coming to an end, it is vitally important to review an estate plan and make sure it reflects your current and future wishes.
While the state may consider you to be legally married if something happens to you before a divorce becomes final, there are steps you can take to limit an estranged spouse’s rights as a beneficiary of your estate.
Three key estate planning considerations during divorce
You and your spouse may have created a plan including wills and trusts, to distribute your estate after one or both of you die. You may also have made guardianship decisions for children and taken out insurance policies. The only thing you didn’t count on was getting divorced. Here are some questions to consider going forward:
- What documents might need to be changed or updated?: These include updates to your will, health care proxy, living will, power of attorney, insurance policies and trusts that you and your spouse may have set up together.
- How does life insurance work?: If you and your spouse have policies, understand how they are paid for, who pays for them, who they provide for and what they will be used for, such as child support, spousal maintenance or both. You will likely want to change beneficiaries.
- How can a trust help with support payments?: Instructions and requirements for paying child support and spousal maintenance can be spelled out in a revocable living trust. The trust can be funded by a life insurance policy with the added benefit of going to beneficiaries directly after someone’s death and avoiding the probate process.
Be pro-active changing your estate plan during a divorce
Taking appropriate steps for updating documents during a divorce can significantly limit a soon-to-be-ex spouse’s control over your estate. Such changes, however, should not be made without consulting an attorney, as there are limitations on what spouses are permitted to do during the time their divorce action is pending. Consult an attorney who is experienced in both family law and estate planning to help you achieve the best outcome in what can be a complicated process.