An estate plan is not something that is written and never reviewed again. A will is a living, breathing document.
Life does not stop simply because someone has signed on the dotted line. Life happens, and as changes occur in one’s life, an estate plan may need to be reevaluated.
Divorce as a Life-Changing Circumstances
Divorce is one of those major life changes. It is usually safe to assume that the ex-spouse was the main person listed in an individual’s will, the personal representative, as well as the person receiving the majority, if not all, of the estate.
Unless someone has one of those very rare circumstances where they get along with their ex-spouse and are comfortable with him or her remaining in charge or a major recipient of their estate, they may want to revise the will.
When Minor Children Are Involved
If there are minor children involved, several considerations come into play. Normally an individual cannot exclude the other parent from the children’s lives by ensuring that someone else becomes the guardian of the children should something happen.
This is not to say it is absolutely impossible, as in situations where abuse or neglect are involved. In most situations, however, children will go to the custody of their other parent should an individual pass away unexpectedly.
That being said, when assets go to the children following an individual’s passing, if they are not eighteen or older, these assets will go to their custodian, i.e., the ex-spouse.
If this individual cannot be trusted to handle the estate for the children, it may be smart to ensure that the estate is protected for their futures. This can be accomplished through the appointment of a trustee for the children’s assets.
Many individuals assume that the money goes wherever the children go, but provisions can be added to the will in order to ensure that the assets are protected. One can give this authority to another trusted person besides the ex-spouse.
If this election is not made, the financial futures of the children could be left to an untrustworthy individual.
Considering Future Spouses
Many individuals divorce, not even giving their estate plans a second glance, only to remarry later. They may assume that the new spouse is the automatic recipient of their estates should something happen to them, but what about that pesky will out there?
That document, detailing your wishes for your estate at the time you executed it, holds precedence over any type of unspoken assumption or life circumstance.
It happens more often than not, and no one likes to be surprised by discovering that your spouse failed to plan for their new life situation. Courts will go by testator’s intent, and a written estate document is pretty much ironclad in terms of intent.
However, the State of Georgia does have laws in place that protect new spouses if they married after a Will was executed. There are still issues involved especially if the deceased had children from a previous relationship.
In order to avoid leaving loved ones in that type of predicament, make sure to revise the will as soon as you remarry, including your new spouse in your will.
Additional Estate Documents
An estate plan includes more than just a will. It also includes a power of attorney, living will and healthcare power of attorney. Again, it may be the case that the ex-spouse is listed as your power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney.
It may be wise to change these documents as well. Otherwise, decision making regarding finances, legal matters or medical decisions could be in the hands of someone that should not be making these decisions.
Do Not Wait
Following a divorce, matters need to be taken care of fairly quickly. The longer the changes to an estate plan are put off, the less likely it is you will actually do it.
Most attorneys will work with you to prepare amendments to your estate plan rather than completely rewriting all documents.
Contact Brian M. Douglas, LLC Today
If you are unsure if you need an attorney, you can always come in for a consultation to discuss your situation. Please, contact our office today if you or someone you know has recently been divorced and has questions about how to update their estate plan.
Call us today at (770) 933-9009 or contact us online to schedule your consultation with a Greater Atlanta area lawyer today.