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Avoid estate plan problems in a divorce

On Behalf of | Nov 11, 2021 | Estate Planning

There’s no way to predict with 100% accuracy which marriages will last a lifetime and which spouses will wind up moving on in life without their partners. You may be one of many Pennsylvania spouses who have decided that you’d rather start afresh in a new lifestyle without your spouse than remain in an unhappy relationship. If you also happen to be one of many people who have already executed an estate plan, there are several issues to keep in mind when filing for a divorce. 

If you had someone well-versed in probate administration law assist you when you drafted your estate plan, he or she no doubt emphasized the importance of conducting periodic reviews of your plan so that it stays updated and relevant to your expressed wishes. Certain life changes, such as a new birth in the family, change of income or a divorce, may have a significant impact on your estate plan. 

It is important to update your estate plan, even before you finalize your divorce 

Depending on various factors, such as financial net worth, assets and liabilities, as well as any child custody issues that might be relevant, it may take a month or much longer to achieve a fair settlement in your divorce. While no one likes to think about his or her own mortality, it’s important to do so regarding an existing estate plan in relevance to a filed petition for divorce.  

There is always a possibility that you could die before the family court judge overseeing your divorce case has issued a final decree. Failure to update an estate plan might create a situation you would not have wanted, such as the spouse from whom you had filed for divorce inheriting your estate. On the other hand, updating your estate plan in a timely manner, even before your divorce is final, can help prevent problems, especially if you were to pass away before settlement.  

Keep in mind that irrevocable trusts cannot be changed 

There are two main types of trusts that can serve as valuable estate planning tools. A revocable trust (also referred to as a living trust) can be changed, updated or removed, as long as you are of sound mind at the time. If you incorporate an irrevocable trust into your estate plan, it is a permanent fixture that you cannot change.  

Certain estate documents are automatically revoked in a divorce 

Every state has its own set of guidelines for divorce, as well as for estate planning and probate issues. For instance, in Pennsylvania, certain estate planning documents automatically change as soon as you file a petition for divorce and establish grounds for a divorce rather than becoming null and void when a final divorce decree is issued.  

Achieving a fair settlement and protecting your assets for the future 

You’ve worked long and hard for what you have in life, and it’s understandable that you don’t want a divorce to cause financial instability or to impede your wishes from occurring as you have documented in your estate plan. Both of these legal topics are complex, which is why it’s important to seek clarification of state laws and to make sure you understand the implications a divorce may have on your estate plan.  

It’s also a good idea to know where to seek additional support to ensure your ability to protect your financial interests in a divorce and to keep a solid plan in place to protect your assets and provide for your loved ones at the time of your death. 

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