No one likes to think of their own mortality. No one likes to think of their marriage ending. But proper planning is the best way to be prepared for life’s uncertainties.
Everyone should have a will. If you don’t have a will, you are entrusting the distribution of your assets to the government. The government will not care that you wanted your china set to go to your wife. The government will simply split your assets as equally and, more importantly to the government, quickly as possible. Leaving your estate plan up to the government is the most ineffective way to distribute your belongings.
This is why people use wills to pass their belongings onto their loved ones. Having a will allows you to make sure your wife gets the china set after you die.
A will also allows you to name a person to be in charge of the distribution of your assets. This person is called an Executor or a Personal Representative. Many times, this person is your spouse. When you get married and create your estate plan, it’s only natural to name each other as Executors. But what happens when you get divorced?
After the Divorce
If your marriage ends in divorce, there are lots of emotions and life can seem like it is spiraling out of control. But one of the most important things to do after a divorce is to review your estate plan, especially your will, with a competent and skilled estate planning attorney.
Even if you and your now former spouse had an amicable divorce, do you really want that person to be in charge of distributing your assets after you die? Do you also want that person to get that beloved set of china?
Modifying your will allows you to name a new Executor and make sure that china set goes to someone special in your life.
How to Modify a Will
The best way to modify a will is to start new. How do you get rid of the old one? You literally tear it up. Once you do that, you and your estate planning attorney can create your new will, specifically revoking the old one, and ensuring your assets are distributed according to your new wishes by your new Executor.
Just because a will is often seen as the most important of the estate planning documents, that does not mean you should avoid modifying other documents after divorce. If you have a Power of Attorney, you certainly do not want your former spouse making decisions on your behalf. Update this document and select a new, trusted individual.
Make sure you also review your beneficiary designations. Look at your 401(k), your insurance benefits, and your bank accounts. Each of these can be modified to remove your former spouse as beneficiary and name a new person in their place.
The worst thing to do with your estate plan after a divorce is to do nothing. Taking action as soon as possible after your divorce is finalized is the best way to ensure your belongings are distributed how you want and to the people who love you and who will cherish your memory.
Using the services of a skilled and knowledgeable estate planning lawyer Memphis, TN residents rely on is the best way to make certain you, your assets, and your beneficiaries are protected.
Thank you to our friends Patterson Bray for their insight into estate planning and divorce.