Divorces can get ugly; from resolving debt to deciding who gets the kids on what days and times, communicating is extremely difficult. Even though it is difficult, it is critical to communicate to protect your children – especially when it comes to estate planning.
This time in your life is not easy, but to make things easier on you and your ex-spouse, focus on talking everything out. Things begin to get even more difficult when you throw children into the equation. Emotions will run high, especially when it comes to discussing who will care for your children if something happens to one or both of you. This essential planning is just another reason why communication will be key throughout the entire divorce process, and after.
Talk about everything! Do not only work to communicate with each other but also communicate with everyone that will be affected by the divorce and the planning you need to have in place after it is in place. Be sure to keep open conversations with family members such as grandparents. This may require a family meeting for grandparents on all sides. If older children are involved, think about how estate planning will impact them, including their schools, friends and community involvement.
While updating your estate is probably not the first thing on your mind during the final stages of divorce, make it a priority to complete. Without updating your estate plan or good communication, your wishes may not be followed for your children. You also need to make sure that the specific requirements in your divorce decree are carried out. For example, are you required to maintain life insurance until your children are adults? Is your former spouse? How will these assets be handled in your estate planning documents? Naming your children as beneficiaries on policies, especially if they are minors, may not be the right course of action and can cause significant problems.
Make sure when you sit down with an estate planning attorney, you have the information from your divorce decree and marital agreements so it can be included, together with updated information on who owns what real property and assets. For example, if there is a required life insurance policy written within your divorce decree, this should be updated within your estate planning documents. In addition to handling assets, you also need to make changes to your existing estate plan depending on what was agreed upon regarding child care and guardians. Don’t forget to protect yourself as well. Did you know that once you are no longer married your former spouse does not have the authority to make decisions on your behalf, even if you have a legal document that names him or her as your agent? Who should take care of you, and subsequently your children, if something was to happen?
Even though emotions may be running high, take this time to look at your estate planning. Discussing things will help ease the transition, help you make good decisions when planning for your family’s future and take stress off during this difficult time. Keep yourself and your family protected by sitting down and organizing your wishes from who gets your property to who will watch your children. Be proactive now, so that you do not regret it later.
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Kevin Snyder is a husband, father, and an Orange County estate planning attorney and elder law attorney at Snyder Law, PC in Irvine, California. He is all about family and has a passion for educating his community about estate planning and how to protect what matters most.