by Michael Kling | February 13, 2015
Going through a divorce versus a remarriage are generally considered two opposite experiences. These are, however, both major life stressors that can be made easier by dealing with something that seems mundane—your estate plan. No matter where you are in the divorce or remarriage process, addressing your changing interests through updating your estate plan is a straightforward means of and making sure your desires are properly carried out.
Though you may wonder why updating your estate plan should be a priority during a divorce, consider whether your soon-to-be-ex-spouse is the person you want to receive your assets if you die before the divorce is final. Similarly, do you want your estranged spouse to be the person making decisions about your financial and health care needs if you become incompetent during the divorce process? If you have an existing trust, your ex-spouse might also be the person who takes control of your trust as the Personal Representative or Trustee if your trust is not amended before the divorce becomes final. Generally, updating your estate plan at the time of filing for divorce entails informing your lawyer of your desires and signing a trust amendment—pretty simple steps to protect your estate in the midst of this major life change.
If you are getting divorced, you also need to consider changes to your IRA beneficiary designations, life insurance policies, and bank records. If you do not make changes on these accounts, your ex-spouse may ultimately receive the funds. Once the divorce is finalized and you are a newly single person, you may also have more limited opportunities for avoiding estate taxes; advanced and updated estate planning can help lessen the impact of these taxes.
If you find yourself in the position to remarry, it is an event to celebrate and a time to re-visit your estate plan. This life change is another opportunity to reconsider where and how you want your assets to pass after your death. This can be complicated if you or your new spouse have children. If you want a guarantee that your assets will go to your children, you need properly executed estate planning documents to make sure this happens. There are numerous options to accomplish this, including updating an existing trust, creating a trust for your children, or making children beneficiaries of life insurance policies. This is also a time to contemplate naming your new spouse on a durable power of attorney and health care proxy.
Having an appropriately tailored estate plan in place during divorce can protect your interests while the separation is negotiated and finalized. Updating your estate plan when being remarried will ensure your wishes are carried out after you pass away. Following through with your planning and executing new documents is an essential step in both divorce and remarriage, and doing so will help make sure you have the peace of mind you deserve throughout these life-changing circumstances.