What Happens to an Estate Plan During a Divorce?
You don’t have to wait until your divorce is final to take proactive steps to protect your best interests and plan for the future
The divorce process is often inherently stressful, both emotionally and financially, for both parties. There are usually many different questions and scenarios that must be analyzed and solved before you are able to truly move on with your life. The primary areas of concern during the divorce process are typically asset division, spousal support and child custody and support if there are children involved. These types of issues can often lead to lengthy and contentious legal battles if proactive steps are not taken to properly plan for the future. Unfortunately, an issue that often gets ignored is estate planning. Failing to properly address your existing estate plan, if any, or establish a new plan for the future can have devastating consequences for you and your loved ones.
Estate planning is one of the most effective ways to protect your interests and plan for a myriad of circumstances both expected and unexpected. In most cases, married couples are jointly responsible for their finances and life choices. If one spouse dies or becomes incapacitated, the remaining spouse is tasked with the numerous responsibilities of making tough decisions. In addition, the remaining spouse typically inherits the deceased spouse’s estate. However, when a couple chooses to divorce there are additional steps that must be taken to ensure that your best interests are protected especially if the divorce process takes longer than expected.
If you are newly separated, it is important to thoroughly evaluate your estate. If you already have a will in place and wish to make changes you must revoke the prior will and execute a new will. You may need to appoint a new executor and assign new beneficiaries if you previously listed your former spouse in these roles. Proper estate planning also encompasses more than just your financial assets. In the event that you are injured or no longer able to make your own healthcare decisions, you must appoint a healthcare surrogate or prepare a power of attorney to make these decisions according to your wishes. Failing to take this important step before your divorce is final may result in your ex-spouse retaining control.
Many people mistakenly believe that estate planning is reserved for only the uber-wealthy. However, regardless of the extent of your assets, it is important to plan for the future and protect your best interests. Whether you are newly separated or already divorced, you must thoroughly evaluate your estate plan to determine if changes need to be made to prevent unnecessary conflict in the future. If you have questions about how your divorce may impact your estate, don’t wait until it’s too late to get the legal advice and support you need. At Kitroser & Associates, our experienced South Florida estate planning attorneys are ready to help you accomplish all your estate planning goals. To schedule a consultation at our North Palm Beach office, call 561-721-0600 or send an email today.