Estate Planning After Divorce

After your NJ divorce is final, your estate plan needs to reflect your new life

Divorce provides you an opportunity to take control of your own life and legacy. Estate planning is a way for you to do that. Before your divorce, you probably named your spouse as your beneficiary in your estate planning documents and financial accounts. Once you have begun the divorce process, that needs to change. Even if you and your former spouse did not create an estate plan, you should consult with an estate planning attorney to protect you and your family.

Think about it. If you die without a revised estate plan before your divorce is final, your former spouse (and/or your former spouse’s family) may be able to make the decisions and distribute assets. Do you want someone else’s children to inherit all your valuables and leave none for your own children? This happens much too often.

Updating and creating estate planning documents after your divorce

So, even before your divorce is final, you should create, review or revise your estate plan. The basic estate planning documents you should create or revise as soon as you begin the divorce process include:

  • Will. Without a will, after you die, your assets will be distributed by the probate court to whomever the law designates, not who you designate. If you have no will and die before your divorce is final, your soon-to-be ex-spouse will receive 100 percent of your estate. A will lets you provide directions on how to settle your estate. It’s usually the best way to:
    • Appoint an executor to administer your estate
    • Designate how to divide the assets you have that do not have a designated beneficiary
    • Name a legal guardian for your children (or other dependents)
    • Exclude specific people (including your soon-to-be ex-spouse) from any inheritance
    • Specify what happens to any property left after bills and taxes are paid
  • Beneficiary designations for life insurance policies, investment accounts, and retirement accounts. For most people, much of their assets are tied up financial accounts and insurance policies that have a designated beneficiary. Instructions for these accounts and several other items do not belong in a will and are usually not part of the probate process. Regardless of your current marital status, the named beneficiaries on your investment, banking, and retirement accounts stay in effect after your divorce unless you actively change them. This is also true of your life insurance policies and annuities. While you are reviewing the accounts, you may also want to change your passwords on your online accounts and notify the financial institutions that your former spouse is not permitted access to these accounts.
  • Power of attorney and healthcare directive. The power of attorney and health care directive documents designate who can act on your behalf if you become temporarily incapacitated or permanently disabled. These may be the most important documents for you to have up-to-date while you are going through a divorce and after the divorce is final. It’s important that someone you trust will ensure that you are not taken advantage of (financially or otherwise), that your bills are paid, and that decisions about medical care are in line with your wishes.
  • Other planning documents and tools. Depending on your specific circumstances, your estate plan may include other documents and planning tools.

If you are contemplating divorce, be sure to contact a lawyer who handles estate planning and divorce law. The guidance you get from a qualified family law attorney in New Jersey can ensure that your estate plan is in sync with your new life.

New Brunswick, NJ lawyer focuses on both divorce and estate planning

With many years of experience in both divorce law and estate planning, Attorney Steven Cytryn has the experience you need to help you create or revise a post-divorce estate plan. He provides compassionate and aggressive advocacy for you in divorce proceedings and looks out for your legacy and financial interests. Contact the Law Offices of Steven M. Cytryn online or at (732) 214-1103.

Steven M. Cytryn
About the Author: Steven Cytryn
Steven M. Cytryn is the Managing Member of The Law Office of Steven M. Cytryn, LLC, and primarily focuses his practice on divorce and family law matters.