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Remember to update your estate plan after divorce

Your estate--that is, your money, property and other assets--likely underwent a big change during your divorce. Even if it did not, you should take a second look at your estate plan.

It is also a good idea to look at accounts such as 401(k)s and life insurance where you have specifically designated beneficiaries. If your beneficiary prior to divorce was your spouse, you may want to change that.

What the divorce decree states

One of the first ways to assess your new/revised estate planning needs is to look at what the divorce decree requires. For example, perhaps the decree says you and your ex-spouse will continue to co-own a vacation property as long as your children are under 18 years old. However, your old estate plan says that if the both of you were to pass away at about the same time, the property would go to your brother. Now, your ex-spouse may want something else to happen to the property. Maybe it would be sold, and the proceeds divided 50/50 to people on your side and on the ex’s side.

Or, suppose you got the primary residence in divorce. Before, if you had died, it would likely have ended up with your spouse. What do you want to happen to it now? Are there any apparent limits on what you can do under the divorce decree?

Care of minor children

What happens to your minor children is a serious matter. Fortunately, many divorced couples are able to put their differences aside and work together to designate possible guardians and financial provisions for their children should something happen to them both. The situation may get more complicated down the road if one or both of you remarries. For this reason (and other reasons, too), it is a good idea to revisit your estate plan at least once every few years.

During divorce

Your divorce may drag on and on, and you may not want your spouse to have some of the assets in your name should you die before the divorce is finalized. In such a case, it is imperative that you change your will and other estate planning documents as soon as possible.

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