Revisiting Your Florida Estate Planning After Divorce

In the midst of a divorce, often the last thing separated spouses want to do is meet with yet another lawyer. They still should – an estate planning attorney, to be exact.

Your divorce attorney helps you map out a division of assets, parenting time and allocation of shared debts. Divorce inevitably alters your personal and financial landscape, which means you must revisit your estate plan. Failure to take this important step can lead to bitter and unnecessary conflict or outcomes you would rather avoid. Plus, divorce proceedings can take months if not years. You will want clear designations of health care proxies, durable powers of attorney and beneficiaries if something happens to you in the meantime.

Divorce has a direct impact on two major estate planning fronts:

  • Who should be allowed to handle your affairs/ those of your estate if you are incapacitated or die?
  • Who should inherit assets of your estate?

An estate planning lawyer in Lake Mary will help you revise existing documents (wills, irrevocable and revocable trusts, medical directive, etc.) and help ensure your new wishes are carried out.

Often, newly-single people find they must scrap their previous estate plan entirely. Post-separation, few people want their ex controlling their financial assets or making critical health care decisions on their behalf. But that could very well happen if you don’t invest in some estate planning.

We can help sort through intestate and non-testementary asset transfers. Not all beneficiary designations can be altered without both parties’ consent, but it’s worth exploring. If your will isn’t updated and you die during pendency of a divorce – no matter how acrimonious – your estranged spouse will automatically be entitled to 100 percent of your assets (if you have no children) or half the estate plus the first $20,000 (if you have children together). This outcome is undesirable for a lot of folks, but is usually remedied with a will. Division of marital assets is part of the divorce process, and once it’s finished, former spouses usually have no valid claim on their ex’s estate (per F.S. 732.507). However, if you don’t also update your will and revocable living trust, your ex may still have legal standing on which to assert rights to your estate.

Other account entitlements that may be automatically nullified in a divorce:

  • Life insurance;
  • Employee benefit plans;
  • Individual retirement accounts;
  • Payable-on-death accounts.

There are some exceptions, though. An estate planning lawyer to at least review and advise you of where these matters stand and what you can expect.

Revisiting these plans is also important to establish guardianship and trusts for children. Of course, it’s impossible to deny a natural or legally adoptive parent’s custody rights through estate planning. However, naming a successor guardian is a good idea just in case something happens to both of you, your ex is unable to fulfill their role or parental rights are revoked due to abuse or trouble with the law.

Finally, sometimes divorce means one spouse inherits wealth they have little experience managing. It’s not uncommon in many relationships for one spouse to primarily handle all the finances. Having an estate planning attorney help you organize your assets and establish smart guidelines is key to long-term financial health.

Contact the Central Florida estate planning attorneys at The Chidolue Law Firm, serving Orlando and Lake Mary, by calling (407) 995-6567 or email us.

Additional Resources:

Step Two in Any Divorce Proceeding: See an Estate Planning Attorney, October 1998, The Florida Bar Journal

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