Summary in Divorce
Death is not optional for anyone, married or divorced. Most people rebounding from a divorce do not want to think about death, but estate planning after a divorce is more imperative than ever. Divorce not only deranges personal finances, it also often changes heirs and beneficiaries.
Moreover, even though spouses are divorced, they have to make arrangements for the care of their children in the event of their demise. This means writing or rewriting any trust agreements for the benefit of children. Basically, estate planning after a divorce requires the same information spouses may have used during the happier times of a marriage to do financial planning. A person on the rebound from a divorce has at hand everything he or she needs to do estate planning -- the same financial information used to prepare a property settlement. On the asset side, this includes everything a person owns; on the liability side, it means everything a person owes. One benefit of doing the financial planning in the aftermath of divorce is that the individual will have a very clear understanding of his or her financial position. The marital estate, years in accumulation, may be eviscerated by the divorce, but at least after estate planning a person knows how poor he or she has become. During the happy times of a marriage, couples very often make reciprocal wills that are the mirror image of one another, but after the marriage crashes, it is not sufficient for them to rip up their wills and walk away. Ripping up their wills leaves them intestate. When a person dies without a last will, his or her property is divided under the laws intestate succession of the state of residence. This can slow the distribution of property to heirs. In some states, a divorce voids the provisions to an former spouse made in a will; in some states it does not. Even when a person may, for one reason of another, wish to leave property to a former spouse he or she should rewrite his or her will and make a clear statement to this effect.
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#259: If you want to avoid court, work with your spouse to reach and agreement on all your issues. Most divorces do end in settlement, unfortunately sometimes, it takes the reality of a trial to make the spouses realize that the judge's ruling would be too much of a surprise to bare.
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