Probate And Estate Legal Issues After A Divorce
When you are in the middle of a divorce, the last thing on your mind will probably be estate planning, or probate matters. But many things in a divorce can affect your estate plan, and make an otherwise rock solid estate plan, vague, confusing, and possibly, the subject of contested probate litigation down the road.
Don’t Forget Your Estate Documents
When you are getting divorced, you should have an eye out for your estate plan. Contested probate matters often happen when people get divorced, and then never re-visit their estate documents to update them to account for their divorce. It may not even be a bad idea to visit your estate attorney, while your divorce is pending, as well as after the divorce is finalized.
Here are some problems people run into with states documents after a divorce, or things that people should remember to do to their estate plan after a divorce
Revoke the Will – You are legally allowed to amend a will, and you may be wondering why completely revoke a will, when it can just be amended. The answer is that divorce is such a major life event, that amendments may do more harm than good—they may create contradictions, and have so many changes, that it is unclear what parts of the original will are actually intact.
It may be better to start from scratch, for clarity’s sake, and create a brand new will, which revokes the prior one.
Update Beneficiaries – You may want to alter your estate documents, to remove your (soon to be) ex spouse, or other relatives of your ex spouse that were in your documents. Remember that there are other documents, aside from a will or a trust, that may also need to be amended. For example, a bank payable on death account may need to be altered to reflect a new beneficiary your power of attorney and healthcare documents may need revision and the deed to your primary residence may need to be adjusted.
Guardianship – If you pass with minor children, the court will almost always give custody of the children to the surviving biological spouse. There isn’t much you can do to change that—designating someone else to watch over your kids won’t terminate the other biological parent’s parental rights.
Still, you do have the option of explaining why you don’t think the other parent would be fit to watch the kids in your estate documents. There’s no guarantee a judge listens to or reads what you have left, but it is at least a chance to have your voice be heard, in the event the court has some doubt over who should watch over the kids when you are gone if the kids are still minors.
Compliance with your Divorce Agreement – If your divorce settlement agreement has estate matters in them, or designates who will be left what, you may need to revise your estate documents to comply with the agreement. You may not want to do that, but should your estate documents conflict with a valid family court judgment that ratifies a settlement agreement, you could end up with a probate challenge to your estate documents.
The Law Offices of Larry E. Bray is ready to help. Contact West Palm Beach estate planning lawyer Larry E. Bray today to schedule a consultation about your estate documents, or any probate matters that you may have following major life events.