Divorce is a cumbersome process, but one area that few people think to address is estate planning. During the marital years, many spouses have wills drawn up, retirement accounts and insurance beneficiaries named, and assets designated to children and relatives. To ensure that your final wishes are carried out, it is necessary to re-evaluate these documents and make necessary changes.
Wills and Beneficiaries
If a spouse dies before the divorce is finalized, the rules for the dispersement of the estate follow the terms of the will or the laws of the state. In many cases, wills and beneficiaries designate the spouse as the sole inheritor of the estate. If changes are not made before the divorce is finalized, then the spouse will inherit everything, even if stipulations changing these arrangements were in process.
Children are often listed as secondary beneficiaries in an estate, but this may change in a divorce if the marriage included blended families. If a spouse dies before the divorce is finalized or before a new will is written, the assets designated to beneficiaries could be subject to the divorce laws of the state.
Most states ignore the stipulations of a will that was made before the divorce when an ex-spouse is the sole inheritor or beneficiary. Gifts and inheritances left to the relatives and family members of an ex-spouse are also revoked. In the event the deceased spouse wanted to leave property or money to a step-child or in-law, the state may prevent this.
Naming a Guardian for the Marital Children
No issue is more emotionally charged during a divorce than naming a guardian for the children in the event both parents die. It is imperative for spouses to make an amicable agreement for designating a guardian for their minor children, but when this is not possible, it is vital that each parent makes their wishes known. Couples that cannot agree to a guardian may have to rely on the court to designate one.
A judge may also have to intervene to interpret the best interests of the child if one parent dies and the other ex-spouse is still alive. In cases where there is a history of child abuse, domestic violence, and drug or alcohol addiction, a parent may vehemently oppose their ex-spouse raising their children. Drawing up a document that states specific reasons why an ex-spouse should not maintain custody of a minor child may be the only voice a parent has post-divorce.
Power of Attorney
Designating a power of attorney is essential to ensuring that your wishes are carried out if you cannot speak for yourself. A power of attorney is usually designated to execute health and financial decisions. If the power of attorney was given to a spouse before a divorce, they may not be aware of the current wishes of their former spouse. Personal and religious convictions may have changed, living wills may have been updated, and financial decisions may have been altered. Designating a new power of attorney will ensure that decisions are made as stipulated by the grantor of the authority.
Towson Divorce Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help Clients with Estate Planning Matters
If you are considering a divorce, contact the Towson divorce lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC at 443-589-0150, or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today. Our Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland offices serve clients throughout Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Columbia, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks, Parkton, Pikesville, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.