Articles Posted in Divorce

Divorces are often emotionally difficult and draining—big life changes are occurring, which are stressful enough on their own. But when people are going through this process, often the last thing on their mind is updating their estate plan. However, estate planning nightmares may occur if individuals do not update their estate plans after a divorce. Former spouses and stepchildren may be able to take advantage of the estate plan if it is not changed—regardless of the person’s intentions. Below is information and advice for newly divorced Texans, explaining why updating their estate plan as soon as possible is essential.

Why Do I Need to Update My Estate Plan After My Divorce?

Estate planning may not seem like a top priority after a divorce. However, this is incorrect. While former spouses no longer have certain benefits from an estate plan—even if the estate plan is not changed—there are some designations that are not automatically revoked unless the estate plan is actively changed. For example, in Texas, unless a person actively removes their former spouse from their life insurance policy, the ex-spouse can still stand to receive the policy benefit if the individual passes away.

Creating an estate plan is an important task when thinking about the future. However, there are often mistakes that can be made if these documents are created without the assistance of an estate planning attorney. Some of these most common errors include unintentionally leaving assets to former partners or spouses after divorce or separation. There are ways to avoid these common estate planning mistakes and ensure ex-spouses are not inheriting the other person’s money. Below is advice on how to make sure assets are untangled from an estate planning perspective after a divorce—along with how professionals can assist in creating an estate plan that works for each person and their situation.

Mistakes that Allow Ex-Spouses to Inherit from an Estate Plan

Most individuals do not intend to leave their former spouses any of their assets when they pass away. However, many people are unintentionally doing so by not changing their estate plans after their divorce. People who do their research may recognize that state laws, including Texas, usually say that former spouses lose all property rights to each other’s assets. But since pensions and retirement funds are governed by federal law, these state laws may not apply.

When going through a divorce, there are many complex emotions. And of all the tasks a person must accomplish during this process, updating their estate plan is often not the first thing on the list. However, it is critically important for recently divorced people to speak with an estate planning attorney and determine the appropriate changes that should be made. Below are explanations about how divorce can affect an estate plan and what people should do and change when going through this situation.

Changing the Will

In most situations, recently divorced individuals will have to change their will because their now ex-spouse was a primary beneficiary—meaning, they were set to receive most of the assets and property owned by the individual when they pass away. While most people assume they should only change the portions of the will that mention the ex-spouse, most estate planning attorneys recommend revoking the will and drafting a new one instead. Otherwise, making a series of slight revisions to the current document will often be more expensive and time-consuming than just creating a new will altogether.

Many Texans plan for the future, including planning their estates with their spouse. Married couples may find it easier to plan together, or may enjoy picturing their life together years, maybe even decades, down the road. But, unfortunately, not every marriage survives until the end of time. Texans may find themselves in the particularly difficult situation of getting a divorce. For many, besides the emotional toll the divorce can take, there are many questions about long-term financial future and estates. What happens to the life and plans that the couple once built together? How can Texans proceed? Read on to learn about why estate planning is a critical component of the divorce process.

Estate Planning Considerations During Divorce

These questions can become increasingly complicated. When two spouses both own property or a house together, who gets to keep it? What becomes the legal status upon divorce? How can the property be divided up legally and fairly? As one can imagine, the titling of the family residence(s) can become a major legal conundrum for divorcing couples, especially those who try to handle their own divorce. But that’s not the only confusing title—other assets, such as bank accounts, also need to be reviewed and sorted out to ensure the split is clean and fair.

The Houston estate planning process can be complicated at any point during a person’s life. Generally, when relationships are altered—either in the case of a marriage or a divorce—changing the estate plan is not the first thought in a person’s mind. However, it is imperative to address the estate plan as soon as possible. Otherwise, the former partner could have legal rights if the individual becomes incapacitated or passes away before the divorce is finalized. For a lot people, this is not a pleasant thought.

Below are estate planning documents that should be altered while going through divorce proceedings:

A Last Will and Testament and Declaration of Guardians

1.29.20Blended families are almost the new normal in America. A Pew Research Center analysis shows that as many as 40% of all new marriages include at least one person who had been married before. For another comparison, in 1960, 13% of all married adults had been married before, compared to 23% today.

In a blended family, one or both spouses have at least one child from a previous marriage or relationship. Financial and legal challenges are more complicated, as are the family dynamics between parents, step-parents, siblings and step-siblings.

CNBC’s recent article, “4 ways to help blended families navigate finances,” reports that a staggering 63% of women who remarry come into blended families, with 50% of those involving stepchildren who live with the new couple, according to the National Center for Family & Marriage Research.

7.5.18With about half of all marriages ending in divorce, second marriages and blended families have become the new normal in many communities. Estate planning for a blended family requires three-dimensional thinking for all concerned.

An article from The University Herald, “The Challenges and Complexities of Estate Planning for Blended Families, ” clarifies some of the major issues that blended families face. When creating or updating an estate plan, the parents need to set emotions aside and focus on their overall goals.

Estate plans should be reviewed and updated, whenever there’s a major life event, like a divorce, marriage or the birth or adoption of a child. If you don’t do this, it can lead to disastrous consequences after your death, like giving all your assets to an ex-spouse.

9.9.19It used to be unheard of, a divorce after fifty, sixty or even seventy years old. However,  gray divorce is now becoming more common. There are pitfalls to be aware of, before taking this big step.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, younger Americans are divorcing at much lower rates, while divorces for adults over 50 have just about doubled since the 1990s. Back in the 90s, for every 1,000 persons age 50 and older, only five divorced. In 2015, for every 1,000 married persons age 50 and older, 10 are divorced.

The issues of a gray divorce are very different than those of a younger couple, not to mention the financial and legal complexities of marriages that span decades.

3.6.19Early adult life is simple. You may or may not have children, a car, a lease on an apartment. However, by the time you reach your 50s and 60s, you likely have some decent assets, like retirement accounts, investments, real estate and maybe even a few collectible cars. You’ll want a prenup, before you walk down the aisle again.

A prenup the first time you get married may seem overly protective, unless there’s a big economic difference between the couple. However, after a lifetime of work, building a business or a retirement portfolio, you want to be sure that a second marriage doesn’t create a financial calamity if it fails. A prenuptial agreement lets you go about enjoying your second marriage, says this recent article, “All About Prenups For Second Marriages,” from Forbes.

Here are some of the issue to consider in second (or third) marriages:

7.19.18Neglecting to plan for family dynamics can destroy the best estate plans. Make sure to address both difficult personalities and tax liabilities. They can be equally problematic.

Saving loved ones from a large tax bill and maximizing the transfer of wealth across generations is great, but your estate plan needs to do more than that. The plan must consider the dynamics of your family, how they may treat each other after you pass and what can be done to protect them from each other.

CNBC’s recent article, “This threat could devour thousands of dollars from your estate,” notes that even families that look like they're perfect, are not. Perfection doesn't exist. When families fail to address these types of issues in their estate plans, it can create conflict between beneficiaries.

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