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Posted On February 12, 2020

Estate Planning for People Headed for Divorce

Estate planning tools can provide people in Indiana who are headed for divorce with financial protection for themselves and their heirs. Before filing or finalizing the dissolution of a marriage with a divorce lawyer, creating or reviewing wills, trusts, powers of attorney, life insurance, and plans for the children are some of the most important steps spouses can take.

Planning for Divorce

Many estate planning actions taken before and during divorce involve limited time and simple paperwork, but they ensure essential protection. Reviewing, updating, and amending important documents can ensure the rights of both spouses are protected during and after the divorce.

Wills

Many couples have wills in place that name their spouse as the beneficiary of their assets in case of death. When filing for divorce, drawing up a new will can change the beneficiary to children or a guardian rather than an ex-spouse. While there are nuances to consider when disinheriting a spouse, that is not the case with an ex.  Bequests made to a former spouse under a will become void when the divorce becomes final. Also, former spouses cannot serve as personal representatives or trustee.

Trusts

Taking assets out of a trust or changing beneficiaries depends on how the trust was originally set up. Trusts are more difficult to alter and some are irrevocable. Changes to a trust will likely require legal advice from a divorce lawyer who handles pre-divorce estate planning.

Power of Attorney

Prior to filing for divorce, power of attorney papers should be reviewed and updated. These papers often give decision-making powers on finances, health care, and hospital emergencies to a spouse. Some power of attorney forms include health care proxies that give a spouse the ability to make life and death decisions for their partner. Spouses who are named as powers of attorney cannot act in that capacity after a divorce.

Life Insurance and Retirement

State laws often require beneficiary designations for life insurance policies, pension plans, and retirement accounts or 401k accounts to remain in place until a divorce is final. Since life insurance policies are payable on death, discussing beneficiary changes with the insurance company that issued the policy once the divorce is finalized is vital.

Children and Heirs

When divorcing spouses have minor children or heirs, establishing legal documents with a divorce lawyer to address care and/or guardianship in case both parents pass away will make sure children are protected. Setting up a trust with a trusted administrator can ensure minor children are financially provided for following a divorce.

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