How is Estate Planning Handled When a Divorce Occurs?

divorce lawyer Scottsdale AZ

When the difficult decision to divorce is made, the ripple effects extend far beyond just the separating couple. One of the most critical aspects affected by this life change is estate planning. At Owens & Perkins, adivorce lawyer Scottsdale AZ leading family law firm in Scottsdale, AZ, we recognize the significance of this issue and are dedicated to offering sound legal advice to those going through a divorce.

The Impact of Divorce on Estate Planning

A divorce will significantly alter the landscape of one’s estate plan. The process of legally ending a marriage necessitates revisions to documents that may have been crafted with a now-changing future in mind. Estate planning tools, such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives, need a thorough review to ensure they reflect your new circumstances and wishes.

Ownership of Your Residence

One of the first things to review and consider during the divorce is how you hold title to your home and other real property.  If you hold title as Joint Tenants With Right of Survivorship or Community Property With Right of Survivorship, that means upon the death of one of the party’s the other party owns the entire house.  Since you are getting a divorce, you may not want that outcome.  To terminate the right of survivorship, you need to sign and record an Affidavit Terminating the Right of Survivorship.  Just talk to your lawyer about how to get this done.

Key Considerations in Estate Planning Post-Divorce

  1. Updating Your Will: Your will probably named your spouse as the primary beneficiary and executor. Post-divorce, you will need to decide who will now inherit your assets and handle your estate’s affairs. In Arizona, divorce revokes any revocable provisions in a will in favor of a spouse or relative of the former spouse unless the will expressly states otherwise.
  2. Revising Trusts: If you have established any revocable living trusts, your ex-spouse is likely listed as a trustee or beneficiary. After a divorce, these designations must be reassessed and amended accordingly to ensure your assets are managed and distributed as you desire.
  3. Power of Attorney and Healthcare Directives: These legal documents likely name your spouse as the person to make financial or medical decisions on your behalf in the event you were unable to do so. Post-divorce, it is crucial to appoint someone you trust to handle these responsibilities.
  4. Beneficiary Designations: Many people forget to update their beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other financial instruments. Failing to do so could result in your ex-spouse receiving these benefits against your wishes.
  5. Guardianship for Minor Children: If you have minor children, your will should clearly state your wishes regarding their guardianship should something happen to you. While the surviving parent typically assumes full custody, it’s essential to have a plan if both parents are unavailable.

The Role of a Divorce Attorney in Estate Planning

At Owens & Perkins, we understand that estate planning during a divorce requires not only legal knowledge but also a compassionate approach. Our team provides comprehensive guidance, including:

  • Immediate Actions: Identifying immediate changes that should be made to estate planning documents during the divorce process.
  • Long-Term Strategies: Crafting estate planning solutions that protect your interests and those of your dependents in the long run.
  • Coordination with your Tax Professional: Collaborating with your tax professional regarding the consequences of any estate plan changes, including asset transfers and beneficiary updates.

Post-Divorce Estate Planning Checklist

To assist you through this transition, Owens & Perkins suggests a post-divorce estate planning checklist:

  • Make sure all assets are out of any prior marital trust you created with your former spouse.
  • Revoke your prior marital estate plan. 
  • Create a new estate plan for yourself as a single person, that will include changing your powers of attorney and healthcare directive designees.
  • Update beneficiary designations on all financial accounts and insurance policies.
  • Reevaluate the guardianship plans for your minor children.

Family Attorney Near Me

Divorce is a multifaceted process that deeply affects personal and financial plans. A comprehensive review of your estate plan is crucial to ensure that your wishes are carried out and that your loved ones are provided for in the manner you intend. At Owens & Perkins, our wealth of experience in both family and estate planning law positions us as a prime resource for individuals facing divorce in Scottsdale, AZ. We offer the expertise needed to update your estate plan in light of your changed family dynamics, giving you peace of mind during a tumultuous time.