Even in the best of scenarios, going through a divorce is an emotionally charged, challenging process. Amid the whirlwind of legal proceedings, contacting an estate planning attorney might not be at the top of your to-do list—but it should be.
A divorce, often referred to as dissolution of marriage, can stretch over several months, sometimes even years. During this period, it’s vital to reassess your estate planning documents, including trusts, wills, beneficiaries, and powers of attorney, should you become incapacitated or pass away before the divorce is complete. This is the best way to ensure that your assets and decision-making authority (including child guardianship plans) suit your current situation. Failing to update your will during a drawn-out divorce or after a divorce could lead to confusion and potential conflicts among your beneficiaries. Clearly specifying your wishes post-divorce can help prevent misunderstandings and disputes.
What Happens If You Don’t Update Your Estate Plan?
If you pass away after your divorce, the good news is that any provisions pertaining to your spouse are generally revoked. This means if your will names your ex-spouse as a beneficiary or executor, those portions are invalidated. However, your estate will need to go through the probate process where the court will then distribute your assets according to the default rules of the state.
The Impact on Minor Children
For those with minor children, an outdated estate plan can lead to unintended consequences. If you have minor children when you pass away and the other parent is still alive and has parental rights, they usually have the primary claim to custody of your children.
However, if your ex-spouse is unfit, a court will step in to determine an appropriate guardian based on the children’s best interest. Without a will designating guardians for your children in this situation, the court may rely on insights from family members or other interested parties. For this reason, it’s crucial to have a clear and legally binding will that designates a guardian for your children. This document helps provide guidance to the court and ensures that your wishes are considered in determining the best interests of your children.
Protecting Your Interests: Work With an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney
As you navigate through a divorce, it’s prudent to consult with an estate planning attorney. At Mathews Law, PLLC, we can provide crucial advice on your vulnerabilities, help you revoke appropriate documents within court-mandated timeframes, and contact institutions to ensure they’re aware of these changes.
If you’re filing for divorce in Alexandria, Springfield, Fairfax, McLean, or Arlington, VA, don’t overlook the importance of updating your estate plan. Ms. Mathews, Esq is ready to help protect your interests, ensuring that you’re not caught off-guard in this challenging life transition. Simply contact us at (703) 215-2088 or click here to schedule a complimentary consultation.