Estate planning is the process by which a person prepares for their death or incapacity. You do it to protect yourself, your estate and the people who matter most to you. Typically, you choose the person you trust the most to fulfill your last wishes and uphold your advanced health care directives. If that was once your spouse, chances are a divorce means that is no longer true.
Revisiting and updating your estate plan might be the last thing on your mind while your divorce is ongoing. However, below are reasons you should consider updating it during your divorce.
To protect your interests and estate
During your marriage, you could have named your spouse your executor, trustee or health care proxy. You may have even given them a power of attorney. While that made sense before, anything can happen during a divorce. You could get into an accident or fall critically ill.
You want to ensure the people you choose to act and think on your behalf will do so with your best interests at heart. Updating your estate plan can allow you to name another individual or entity to make significant decisions in the case of unexpected death or incapacity.
To protect your heirs and change your beneficiary designations
If something happens to you before a judge can sign a final divorce decree, then your spouse may still be your legal heir. Your assets, including insurance policies and the contributions you made to your pension and retirement accounts before your marriage, could unintentionally go to your former spouse. Therefore, consider revising your beneficiary designations and incorporating other estate planning tools that can allow you to transfer your assets according to your explicit preferences.
You could use your separate property to fund a trust and specify beneficiaries to inherit the trust assets instead of letting these fall to the mercy of probate and intestate succession. It could prevent unnecessary conflict and contentious legal battles among your heirs.