Getting Divorced? Don’t Overlook Estate Planning

Divorce graphic

               Divorce is one of the most difficult and stressful events that a person can face in life. Whether you are the partner who feels driven to leave the marriage or are the spouse who is left, there are often feelings of shock, grief, anger, and loss. After all, you vowed to love, honor, and cherish your spouse and you expected this relationship to last into old age. During the process of divorce feelings of anger may predominate as the details of child support, visitation, and division of assets take precedence. While this is certainly understandable, revisiting your estate plan both during and after your divorce is absolutely critical.

                Revising your estate plan through a divorce may actually be a two-step process. There are some steps that you can take during the divorce process and others that must wait until the divorce is final. Until your divorce is final, be sure that you are meeting your legal obligations to your current spouse and children. Then, both during and after the divorce, be sure that you are retaining as much control as possible over your assets and your life.

First Steps

First, check your healthcare and financial powers of attorney. These documents specify who will make decisions about your health and finances if you are incapacitated. Most people name their spouses. During a divorce your soon to be ex may not be the person you want making healthcare decisions if you are in an accident or unexpectedly fall seriously ill. You may also want a different family member to have access to your funds if you are incapacitated. A durable financial power of attorney includes assets that are yours alone as well as joint assets. Very few people want their soon to be ex-spouse to have access to their assets. Powers of attorney can be changed before the divorce is final.

Consult an Experienced South Carolina Attorney

In some states, you cannot change beneficiaries on life insurance, retirement accounts and some other types of accounts until after the divorce is final. This is a critical thing to do, regardless of when you can legally do it. Some people never change beneficiaries and years later their children or other heirs are left with serious consequences when your ex-spouse receives assets because you never updated your beneficiaries. You need to talk to an attorney who is experienced in South Carolina estate law. While your family law attorney can advise you about the nuts and bolts of divorce in South Carolina, our attorneys are experienced in formulating estate plans for every stage of life and can advise you on estate planning both during and after your divorce.

Be Sure Your Estate Plan Reflects Your Current Wishes

Update your will and trust. You probably do not want your current spouse in charge of your estate after you die. Your ex-spouse may have to be named as your children’s guardian under state law if you pass away while they are still minors, but you can name someone else to manage assets for them until they are of age. This role requires some consideration as it needs to be someone whom you trust with your assets to act in the best interests of your minor children. That someone should also be able to work reasonably well with your ex-spouse to manage expenses that the children may have.

If you had a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, your divorce attorney should have reviewed these documents. Be sure they are aware of them. You should also review these documents with your estate planning attorney and consider what your spouse is entitled to under the provisions of those documents if you predecease him or her. Any revisions to your estate plan should be consistent with your prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

Revising your estate plan in the event of a divorce may be a two-step process. You may want and be able to make some changes during the legal process of divorce. Then, after the divorce is final, you should definitely discuss your estate plan with our experienced attorneys. Our attorneys can help guide you through the process of making updates no matter the situation and have experience helping our clients craft individual estate plans that work for their unique situation. Come and talk to us soon. Complete the contact form or call 803-358-7214 today.

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