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Estate planning and divorce: What you need to consider

When you said your vows, divorce was likely the furthest thing from your mind. Maybe you had a few good years before things fell apart; maybe you had several great years. Regardless, it's unlikely you factored divorce into your estate plan. Don't worry: You're not alone, and it's not too late to get things in order.

Most individuals going through divorce are focused on spousal support, child support and division of property. Part of the settlement, especially if there are children involved, should be about updating your estate plan to match your new circumstances. It is in your best interests to discuss your options with your attorney to make sure all of your concerns - and even those things you don't know to ask - are addressed.

Providing support for your children

If children are a consideration in your divorce, both parents may need to carry a life insurance policy that would cover child support in the event that one parent dies unexpectedly. It's unlikely that you would contest such a provision knowing that it would provide for your children, but there are other considerations you must make when addressing your estate:

  • Who receives the payout?
  • What can the money be used for?
  • Who is accountable for the money?
  • What happens to the provision when the children turn 18 and child support obligations cease?
  • Is there a contingency in place if the designee or the child dies before parent?

Establishing a trust that will adequately care for your children is another way to potentially safeguard their interests. A trust may also be used to set aside some of your estate assets for adult children from previous marriages who may otherwise fear being disinherited.

Other considerations

Once the divorce is finalized, you should take time to modify your existing will, trusts, living wills and advance health care directives to remove a former spouse's name. You may not necessarily want that person in charge of making health care decisions on your behalf if you cannot, or controlling your assets should something unexpected happen.

Remember: Even if you aren't in the midst of a divorce, and even if divorce isn't currently a consideration for you, it still may benefit you to add divorce contingencies into your estate plan. A skilled family lawyer can help you.

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