Navigating estate planning after divorce is tricky. You likely shared many things during your marriage – your children, home, bank accounts, etc. But after a divorce, when marital assets have been divided, you will have to figure out a different estate plan moving forward.
Such was the case for a recently divorced mother who came to us for help with her estate plan. She had two minor children, a home, life insurance, and some bank accounts. Her concern was that if something happened to her, her former spouse would have control over these assets and that they wouldn’t be distributed to her children in the way she would have wanted. She needed a plan.
So we created a revocable living trust in which she could name her children as beneficiaries so that if anything happened to her, her assets would go to them. Next, she designated a successor trustee or executor who would manage those assets until her children were of age to receive them. By doing so, the assets within the trust avoid the probate process and the possibility of being mismanaged by the ex-spouse.
Dilemmas like these happen every day for individuals navigating life after a divorce agreement. Whether it’s your kids, home, or other assets, you deserve protection for your estate even after your marriage ends.
To help you through this tricky process, here are four things to know when drafting an estate plan after your divorce decree is final.
#1 Revoke Your Will
If you began your estate plan while you and your ex-spouse were still together, you should consider revisiting your last will and testament and making changes. Your will is legal evidence of your final wishes for your estate, and you don’t want those wishes to be misinterpreted.
Fortunately, California state law protects citizens by automatically revoking:
- Any disposition or appointment of property made by the Will to the former spouse.
- Any provision of the Will conferring a general or special power of appointment on the former spouse
- Any provision of the will nominating the former spouse as executor, trustee, conservator, or guardian
However, we don’t recommend leaving it up to state law to decide what happens to your assets. You should speak with a trusted estate planning attorney about updating your will, and if you haven’t created a will, now is the perfect time to start.
#2 Update Your Beneficiary Designations and Power of Attorney
Now that you have a new will, take a look at your beneficiary designations for assets that may be commonly overlooked, like your life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and bank accounts.
It’s possible that when you opened these financial accounts or sometime during your marriage, you designated your ex-spouse as a beneficiary, making these assets payable to your ex-spouse upon death. No worries — choosing new beneficiaries may be as simple as calling your provider or making updates online.
Also, remember to review your Power of Attorney documents, both medical and financial. If your ex-spouse was the previous power of attorney (POA), you must select a new trusted person to assume these duties.
#3 Consider a Trust
With a trust, you can direct funds to your heirs or beneficiaries without oversight by the probate court or interference from your ex-spouse. Whether you have minor children or other loved ones you’re looking out for, establishing a trust can help you in more ways than one.
#4 Revisit Guardianship for Minor Children
Suppose your divorce involved contentious child custody disputes, or you have reason to be concerned about your ex-spouse’s fitness to care for your children after you’re gone. In that case, you might consider detailing your concerns in guardianship documents with your estate plan. Of course, this document will not override the parental rights of your ex-spouse. However, a judge can consider your concerns if or when the time comes. At Hermance Law, our law firm utilizes our Kids Safeguard System to make the guardianship process easier for parents to establish.
Contact Us Today
Even after the difficult divorce process is over, new problems can arise for your estate plan. Although divorce isn’t the only time you should consider updating your estate plan, it can be when it becomes most complicated. Contact an estate planning lawyer at Hermance Law today to revise, or create, estate planning documents to protect your family.