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Divorce triggers important estate plan updates

As readers of this blog have likely come to realize, estate planning is about much more than drafting a will. While ensuring that assets and personal belonging are distributed according to one's wishes upon death is certainly a significant part of estate planning, there are also many important factors that a comprehensive estate plan can help an individual account and plan for during their lifetime.

From major decisions about healthcare issues in the event an individual is incapacitated to who will attend to one's finances if the aforementioned occurs, the estate planning process can account for many of the knowns and unknowns in life. However, there are times when an individual must take steps to amend his or her estate plan. One such major life event that triggers important estate planning changes is divorce.

Divorce signals many changes in one's life, including estate planning-related matters which can be easily overlooked. Think about this scenario, a couple is in the midst of a bitter divorce when the husband is involved in a terrible car accident. Per the husband's existing living will, his soon-to-be ex- wife is named his healthcare proxy. Upon a divorce decree being finalized this designation is automatically canceled. However, unless a spouse takes action to change a designation prior to a divorce, the designation stands during divorce proceedings. This means that the soon-to-be ex-wife may be asked to make important life and death decisions on her ex's behalf.

Other important estate planning documents that should be updated during a divorce include a will, trust, estate executor and any beneficiary designations that named an ex-spouse. The latter are especially important to update as any amendments made to remove an ex-spouse from a will are trumped by existing beneficiary designations.

Source: Wicked Local: Marshfield,"PLANNING MATTERS: Estate planning and divorce," Leanna Hamill, Nov. 6, 2015

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