Going Through Divorce? Don’t Forget About Updating Your Estate Plan!

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When you’re in the middle of divorce proceedings, anything having to do with your life beyond the present and immediate future could be far from your mind. And, that’s completely understandable. Anthoor Law Group completely understands the emotions and feelings you’re experiencing, as we have helped countless people navigate these difficult times. It’s important, however, not to forget about your estate plan. 

When you got married and (hopefully!) created or updated your estate plan, you likely put your spouse down as your beneficiary and personal representative in your Last Will and Testament. If you had any other estate planning forms — like powers of attorney and living trusts — your spouse’s name was probably all over those, as well. 

Automatic Revocation of Ex-Spouse’s Bequest

California and some other states do have a law on the books that automatically remove an ex-spouse from estate planning forms that designate the ex-spouse as a beneficiary. So, in other words, let’s say you left everything to your spouse in your Will. After a few years together, you make the difficult (but necessary) decision to divorce your spouse. If something were to happen to you before you got around to updating your Will or making a new one, your surviving family wouldn’t have to worry about your ex getting what’s actually in the current Will. 

However, this could cause trouble with some of your assets. Under state law, your ex-spouse is treated as though he or she had passed away in your estate plan. If you didn’t leave any instructions beyond leaving everything to your (now-ex) spouse, the state intestacy laws apply. Your surviving children, parents, and other close relatives will inherit based on what the state imagines your wishes would have been. This can get especially messy if you or your ex-spouse had children from prior relationships. 

You also need to pay attention to other forms besides your Will. Some assets, like retirement accounts, don’t apply to your Will — meaning you need to update these forms separately. The California law that removes your ex-spouse as a beneficiary might not even apply to some of these retirement plans, either. 

One final note here is that your ex will only be automatically removed when your divorce is finalized. It’s not uncommon for divorces to take more than a year to settle. If you were to pass away during the process, your spouse would likely still inherit his or her share of the estate. 

Other Situations That Require a Second Look at Your Estate Plan

Estate planning is not something you do once and forget about. No matter how meticulous you were when you were creating your estate plan, your life will change. To get the most out of your plan, think of it as a living, breathing document or collection of documents that you should regularly update. Apart from our recommendation that you update your estate plan every three years, you should also take a second glance if: 

  • You married, had a child, or experienced a loss in your family. 
  • You recently bought or sold a highly valued asset or piece of property. 
  • A personal representative, agent, or other fiduciary has started behaving in a way that would lead a reasonable person not to trust them. 
  • The laws concerning any part of your estate plan have been changed. 

No estate plan or family law matter is the same. There are plenty of reasons why those online DIY legal services will not be sufficient, either. When it comes to you and your family, you need an empathetic attorney who has experience dealing with complex situations. Anthoor Law Group proudly serves a diverse clientele, and we would love for you to join the family. Give us a call at (510) 794-2887 to set up an appointment with our team.

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