Going through a divorce is difficult on a number of levels. For most people, it involves alterations in living arrangements and finances, not to mention emotional distress. As you go through the divorce process, you are undoubtedly busy and harassed, but it’s important to contact your estate planning attorney. Remember — not making sure that necessary changes are made to vital documents can put you, your children, and your assets at risk.
There are a great number of changes that have to be made to your estate plan as you start your new life. Make sure your estate planning attorney is up to the task. If you get the feeling that she or he is not giving you the personal attention you deserve or is not treating this review of your estate plan with the urgency it warrants, change attorneys. This is a time when you need an efficient, effective estate planning attorney who is responsive to your concerns.
Documents that Will Have to Be Altered When You Divorce
It may suddenly occur to you while trying to reach agreements on terms of child custody or distribution of assets, that much of your financial life has been structured around your marriage. Since that marriage is now facing dissolution, it is critical to make structural changes to prevent serious, possibly catastrophic, financial problems.
We have all heard the horror stories of bank accounts being emptied by greedy or vindictive spouses just prior to a divorce being finalized. Even if this seems highly improbable in your case, it’s best to take precautions. For that reason, in all but the rarest cases, you will want your estate planning attorney to help you keep your soon-to-be ex-spouse, and perhaps members of his or her family, from having too much control by:
- Giving a new person durable power of attorney to manage your financial affairs if you are unable to manage them yourself due to illness or accident
- Naming someone other than your ex-spouse as your healthcare proxy* to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become too ill to communicate your wishes
- Naming a new executor to see that your will is executed properly if you originally gave your spouse this role
- Naming a new guardian for your children (e.g. if you named your brother-in-law for this position during your marriage)
- Updating your will, beneficiaries, and any pertinent trusts
- Updating beneficiary designations on retirement or pension accounts and on insurance policies though most are considered marital property in Massachusetts
- Updating “payable on death” bank accounts and “transfer on death” investment accounts
- Changing revocable living trusts set up to provide for yourself or your offspring. You may have originally set up joint trusts or named your ex as trustee if you pass away
*Note: Though your spouse will automatically be revoked as your healthcare agent after your divorce is finalized, it is best to appoint a new health care proxy early on.
All of These Changes Have to Be Made by Your Estate Planning Attorney
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can simply make cross-outs on your initial documents and write in new words. For your documents to be legally binding your lawyer must follow proper protocol. Once you have decided to divorce, you can consult with your estate planning attorney and start the ball rolling. You needn’t wait until your divorce is final.
Contact Our Skilled Estate Planning Attorney as Soon as You Decide to Divorce
Even with all you have to do during this distressing and pressured transition to a new lifestyle, don’t make the mistake of postponing the updating of your estate plan. Let the skilled estate planning attorneys of Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. help you navigate the turbulent waters of divorce safely and securely.