Many people’s first experience with estate planning comes with exciting life milestones like a marriage, purchasing a first home with a spouse or partner, or the birth of a child. However, it’s worthwhile to speak with an estate planning attorney anytime you experience a major change in your life that impacts your finances, assets, or family structure. Divorce is a common but significant shift that necessitates a closer look at your estate planning documents. The purpose of your estate plan, be it a will, living trust, or other planning strategies, is to create a plan for your assets and your loved ones. To put it simply, the goal is to ensure that the right things go to the right people and at the right time. However, the estate plan you created as an individual or a married couple may not achieve this goal following a divorce.
Review Your Estate Planning Goals with a Professional
Your estate plan is more than just a will or living trust. Your estate plan also includes important documents like a power of attorney, healthcare directive, and other tools that may be needed in the event of an emergency illness or incapacity. When married couples first meet with our attorneys, they’re often surprised to learn that they aren’t automatically granted the legal right to help their spouse make medical decisions in an emergency. A legal document is needed to establish this privilege. The same is true of divorced couples. Your former spouse won’t automatically have their privileges to act as your medical power of attorney revoked. You’ll need to establish new documents outlining the person/people you would like to assist you in an emergency.
Additionally, you’ll want to review the beneficiary designations for your major assets to determine if you need to update the person you would want to be named on any life insurance policies, your will, trust, or other important accounts. The experienced attorneys at Guttman Law can help you review your estate plan to ensure your documents reflect your current wishes. We will work hand-in-hand with your financial advisor to ensure your financial goals are fully supported by a properly designed estate plan.
What If I Don’t Have a Plan?
While many couples choose to create an estate plan when they're initially married, others consider it a longer-term goal for older, established couples. If you and your former spouse never chose to create a plan together or individually, now may be the perfect time to plan for your estate. Unfortunately, if you were to pass away without an estate plan, a probate court would settle your estate without respect for your unique goals and concerns. When you die in intestacy, a probate judge will determine who receives your assets, and in some cases, this could include your former spouse. Additionally, if you share children with your former spouse, you may want to create more advanced planning to pass and protect assets for your children. Revocable living trusts are commonly used to safeguard a child’s inheritance and limit the access and control your former spouse may exert over your minor child’s inheritance even after you pass away.
Speak with An Estate Planning Attorney
Whether you know your estate plan needs to be updated following a recent divorce or if it’s a task that’s been sitting on your to-do list for years, it’s important to speak with an experienced professional to determine the right estate plan to meet your goals. Without an estate plan, it's unlikely your goals and wishes will be carried out in the event of an emergency or when you eventually pass away.
Contact Guttman Law to schedule a complimentary estate planning review or strategy session to determine the best plan for your needs. Call our team today at (612) 324-4055.