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If you are about to go through a divorce, you should take some time to consider how this action might affect your estate plan. Regardless of how long your divorce process is taking, until the final decree is signed by the judge, you are still considered to be married and your estate documents based on leaving something to your spouse is still in full effect. Read on to learn more.
Take Action at Once
If you pass away or become incapacitated before your divorce is final, you may be stuck in a situation that you would never have chosen if you had known about in advance. Your soon-to-be-ex spouse may get not only control and ownership of your entire estate but dominion over your end-of-life plans, powers of attorney and more if you are incapacitated. Once you know your marriage is ending, speak with your estate attorney to ensure that your will reflects your new objectives and beneficiaries, before something unexpected happens.
Once Your Divorce is Final
If you waited until your divorce was complete to change your estate plans, you must still take action. The way the law treats things like wills varies somewhat from state to state, but in most cases, the state treats your divorced spouse like a spouse who has proceeded you in death or the divorce invalidates the entire will. There are a handful of states where you will need to actually change your will to keep a former spouse from inheriting, so be sure to check with your estate attorney for guidance. In most cases, any treatment of the ex does not extend to any children of your ex, so the will stands in regard to those provisions unless you make a change yourself.
Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts
If your estate plan contains a revocable trust, the provisions set aside for your ex will become invalid. The best thing about these types of trusts is the ability of the owner to make changes at any time while still living.
For an irrevocable trust, the scenario could not be more different. If your spouse is named as a beneficiary of such a trust, it will stand regardless of whether or not you are still married to each other. If you wish to use this type of trust, be sure to use the phrase "legal husband" or "legal wife" instead of a name, which can then be carried over to a new marriage.
Getting a divorce can mean a busy and stressful time, but ignoring the need to update your estate plans could be disastrous, so speak with your attorney and make sure that your plans still line up with your wishes.To learn more, contact a law firm like DOUG NEWBORN LAW FIRM, PLLC.