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Getting a Divorce? You Need to Review Your Estate Plan


Even in the best of cases, a divorce is a difficult process for all of the parties involved. Ending a marriage means unwinding a complex web of financial and legal relationships. And one subject that often gets overlooked in the divorce process is estate planning.

Indeed, many people do not even think to review their estate plan before, during, or after a divorce. This is a big mistake. After all, an estate plan is made based on certain assumptions regarding your marriage and family relationships. As those change, so too must your estate plan. With that in mind, here are four things you need to know about estate planning and divorce.

  1. You Need to Change Your Will.

A will remains in effect until you replace, amend, or revoke it. Now, getting a divorce will trigger one critical change in your will automatically–it will remove your ex-spouse as a beneficiary or executor. Under Florida law, any provision of your will “that affects the spouse of that person shall become void upon the divorce of that person or upon the dissolution or annulment of the marriage.”

But this provision only affects your ex-spouse. It says nothing about your former in-laws. So if you no longer want to leave part of your estate to your ex-spouse’s siblings or parents, then you need to make a new will.

  1. You Need to Check Your Beneficiary Designations.

Your will only covers assets subject to Florida’s probate process. There are many other assets–notably retirement accounts–that are governed by federal law. If you have a 401(k) or an IRA, for example, you are asked to fill out a beneficiary designation form. This form overrides any contrary instructions in your will. So if your ex-spouse is still designated as a beneficiary, you need to file a new form with the account custodian.

Also keep in mind that the terms of your divorce settlement may entitle you to a share of your ex-spouse’s retirement accounts, and vice versa. In such cases it is even more critical to ensure all beneficiary designation forms are kept up-to-date.

  1. You Need to Review Your Guardianship Plan.

If you and your ex-spouse have minor children, it is important to review–and if necessary revise–your contingency plan in the event you die before they reach adulthood. Many people include such a guardianship plan in their will. But once again, your pre-divorce plan may include in-laws whom you no longer trust to raise your kids in your absence.

  1. You Need to Speak with a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer.

After the rigors of divorce, many newly single people are reluctant to engage another attorney to deal with their estate plan. But working with a qualified Fort Myers estate planning lawyer now can help avoid problems for you and your family later.

Contact the Kuhn Law Firm, P.A., at 239-33-4529 if you would like to schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our estate planning team today.

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