How Does Divorce Affect Estate Planning in California?
Divorce is a difficult enough proposition without taking the paperwork and legal issues into consideration. If you are in the unlucky situation of ending a marriage, here are three helpful secrets for estate planning through a divorce.
1. Divorce Requires Creation of a New Estate Plan
Typically, getting a divorce invalidates a Trust or Will, however, those changes do not go into effect until the divorce proceedings are finalized. Since some divorces can take months to years, the smartest play is to create a new estate plan to protect your assets and remove your spouse from having any control or power over what will happen to your estate if you pass away.
Divorces can take years to be finalized and you can never predict what will happen during that time. A death or mental incapacity, however unlikely, will essentially leave your divorce null and void if your spouse is still on your trust or power of attorney documents.
2. Who Are Your Retirement Account Beneficiaries?
If you were married, chances are your spouse is the primary beneficiary of your retirement accounts, pension plans, and life insurances. Many people will finalize their divorce but forget to change the status of the aforementioned documents. Do not make any changes until after you consult with your divorce attorney, but be sure to bring up the topic and take care of those accounts.
3. Do You Own Property in Joint Tenancy?
For those people who own property with their spouse, joint tenancy is an issue they should look into right away. Couples who own property as joint tenants should sever the tenancy prior to finalizing their divorce. The definition of “Joint Tenancy with Rights of Survivorship” states that if one spouse passes away, the other receives the rights to the entire piece of property. Joint Tenancy is different from “Tenants in Common” as that ownership allows each person to pass on their share of the property to someone of their choosing.
Divorces and life changes can be difficult, but having a good set of advisors on your side can make that transition a little easier. If you are in need of creating or updating an estate plan, contact our experienced attorneys at Elder Law Services of California. We can provide you with a FREE phone consultation and create a personalized plan of action to protect your assets and preserve your family legacy. We look forward to working with you soon!
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