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Facing a divorce? Update your estate plan.

There is no way for anyone to know what life has in store for them.

For example, no one anticipates getting a divorce when they get married. Even so, roughly 40% to 50% of marriages end in divorce in the United States, with a large percentage of that being couples over 50. No matter when couples seek a divorce, they experience many changes that impact almost every aspect of their life.

These changes can be incredibly stressful, but individuals facing or finalizing a divorce must also ensure they take time to adjust their estate plan regarding these changes.

Why is this necessary?

Updating their estate plan is often the last thing on someone’s mind while they are in the process of divorce. However, this is an important step to take. For example, not many people would want their estranged or ex-spouse to be in charge of making healthcare decisions on their behalf if they are incapacitated.

Therefore, individuals should take the time to make sure they:

  • Change beneficiaries listed in their will, trust or on any financial accounts (such as IRA’s, 401K’s and life insurance);
  • Adjust their will if they do not want their estranged or ex-spouse to inherit assets or serve as their Executor and/or Trustee;
  • Change advance directives and durable powers of attorney; and
  • Change details in their estate plan regarding their new financial situation.

It is important to note that usually, establishing an estate plan is not enough. Individuals in New Jersey should regularly review and update their estate plan with their attorney  – especially when they experience significant life changes – to ensure their plan still reflects their wishes.

However, consider your children’s best interests too

Whether or not the divorce was amicable, individuals might be tempted to completely remove their ex-spouse from their estate plan.

This is understandable, but individuals should think carefully before doing so. If they share children with their ex-spouse, adjusting the estate plan might become more complicated – especially in terms of establishing a guardianship for minor children and providing financially for them.

In these cases, it is especially important that individuals consult their estate planning attorney so they can act in their family’s best interests. If you are in need of an estate planning attorney, contact Michelle E. Smith at the law offices of Piro Zinna Cifelli Paris & Genitempo, LLC.

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