If you go through a divorce, one of the things you will need to do is revise your estate plan to address your divorce. Prior to your divorce, you may have identified your ex-spouse as your beneficiary or designated him or her as the heir to your estate. If after your divorce you want to remove your ex-spouse as your beneficiary or the designated heir to your estate, then you will want to immediately visit your estate planning attorney’s office and update your documents.
It’s always a good idea to consult with an estate planning attorney after you get a divorce to discuss and determine whether you need to update your will and estate plan, even if you’re not sure you need to. You may not realize that your ex-spouse has more rights or authority under your estate plan than you thought or that your ex-spouse is still the person identified to call in a medical emergency. It’s important to ensure that you only name beneficiaries for your estate that you want to receive your assets upon your death, and if your ex-spouse isn’t whom you want to receive your assets, then you need to remove him or her.
Should you wait until the divorce is finalized before changing your will?
Although you can wait until your divorce is finalized to change your will and your estate plan, there are benefits to doing so before you file for divorce. If you die before the divorce is completed, your spouse will still have statutory marital rights to a portion of the estate. As a result, revising your will before filing for divorce may help you eliminate the possibility that your spouse receives a larger portion of your assets if you do pass away before the divorce is finalized.
If you want to wait, remember that most of the time you will not be able to change your will once you start your divorce. Once the divorce is finalized, you’ll be able to change it again. That does leave a short time while you’re working through the divorce where your spouse may be able to obtain assets that you don’t want them to have. However, it can be difficult to revise and finalize your will and estate plan prior to the final determination of asset division and ownership. Nonetheless, it’s a thought worth considering and something you may want to discuss with your estate planning attorney if you’re planning to divorce your spouse.
Whether you change your will now or after your divorce, it’s a good idea to do so as soon as you can. Update it regularly and address the major changes in your life.