Consider Updating your Estate Plan Before Filing for Divorce or in the Midst of a Divorce
Going through a divorce is an emotionally charged, challenging process. Amid the whirlwind of legal proceedings, contacting an estate planning attorney might not be at the top of your to-do list—but it should be.
A divorce, often referred to as dissolution of marriage, can stretch over several months, sometimes even years. During this period, it's vital to reassess what would happen to your assets, or even yourself, should you become incapacitated or pass away before the divorce is finalized.
What Happens If You Don't Update Your Estate Plan?
When they are in the middle of a divorce, most people would not want their spouse to make decisions for them. However, if you do not update your estate plan, that's what will happen if you become incapacitated. For example, if your husband or wife is your patient advocate under a Patient Advocate Designation, he or she would have control over your medical decisions, potentially without considering your best interests. Similarly, if your spouse has power over your finances and you become incapacitated, the outcome may not be in your favor.
Without an updated estate plan in the face of a looming divorce, your soon-to-be-ex may still be entitled to everything outlined in your existing estate plan if you pass away before the divorce is finalized. If, however, you pass away after the divorce is finalized without updating your estate plan, then your estate may be distributed under Michigan's intestacy laws, which may not align with your wishes, and which is usually not the most efficient and cost-effective way to distribute an estate.
Shared Trusts and Inheritance
Matters can get complicated if you and your spouse are co-trustees on various trusts or accounts. In case of your incapacitation, your spouse could access, use, or even sell properties you wouldn't want them to have access to. They could even take out loans without your consent.
Or, if you have inherited or are set to inherit assets from your parents and pass away before the divorce is finalized, your inheritance could pass directly to your estranged spouse.
The Impact on Minor Children
For those with minor children, an outdated estate plan can lead to unintended consequences. Without an updated plan, the courts will likely place your ex in charge of any money or other property left to your children. You need to update your Will or Trust to designate a conservator or appoint a trustee to manage any assets that pass to your children.
Protecting Your Interests: Work with a Troy Estate Planning Attorney
As you navigate through a divorce, it's prudent to consult with an estate planning attorney. They can provide crucial advice on your vulnerabilities, helping you revoke appropriate documents within court-mandated timeframes and contact institutions to ensure they're aware of these changes.
If you're filing for divorce in Troy, don't overlook the importance of updating your estate plan. Andrew Byers is an experienced estate planning attorney and is ready to help protect your interests, ensuring that you're not caught off-guard in this challenging life transition. Simply contact us at (248) 469-4261 to schedule a consultation or use the contact form on this website.