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How Divorce Affects Your Estate Plan

There are many legal issues surrounding divorce including custody of minor children, distribution of shared property, and spousal support.  There are also the emotional issues that will surface throughout the divorce proceedings.  Consequently, when an individual is trying to get through a divorce, updating estate planning documents is usually at the bottom of the to-do list.  Nonetheless, updating your estate planning documents should be a priority and in certain situations, may be required by the terms of a divorce.

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, some estate planning documents, like a Medical Directive, are automatically deemed invalid upon filing for divorce.  Additionally, provisions in a Revocable Trust or Will that leave some or all of your assets to your spouse or that name your spouse as executor will become ineffective after the grounds for divorce have been established and a divorce petition filed.

During the divorce process, you will likely want to revise the names of alternate fiduciaries named in your will.  For example, if you have named your spouse’s relatives or friends as trustees or personal representatives, you may want to reconsider having them serve in these roles as a divorce does not nullify these designations.   A well thought-out estate plan must sometimes be completely changed after a divorce because of altered family dynamics and friendships.

Divorce is also a time during which you will want to review the guardianship provisions for your minor children set forth in your will.  Unless the court deems your spouse an unfit parent, you can’t remove your spouse’s right to care for your minor children.  However, you may want to change who you had previously chosen to serve as guardians in the event that both you and your ex-spouse pass away before your children turn 18 years old.

After a divorce, it is also important to review your beneficiary designations for your insurance policies, retirement accounts, IRAs and 401(k)s.  Make sure to review all of these documents and change the beneficiary information as soon as possible.  Delaying this important step too long could result in this task being forgotten entirely which would ultimately cause a lot of unnecessary stress for your loved ones in the future.

If you and your spouse are involved in a business together, any corporate documents should be reviewed as a part of the divorce process.  These documents can include buy/sell and shareholder agreements and any other related documents having to do with the distribution of the company’s assets.  Since these documents are relevant to the business’ continued operation, they will likely have an effect on your post-divorce estate plan so be sure to review them early on in the separation process.

A divorce will impact every aspect of your life and revising your estate plan in the aftermath can be a very delicate process.  The experienced and trusted attorneys at Fingeret Law in Pittsburgh are available to help and guide you through the process of reviewing and updating your estate plan after a divorce.

To discuss your specific needs and to find out how we can help, please call us at (412.281.8222) or contact us online.

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