Getting married is one of the top reasons that people sit down to create their first estate plan, although having children is also a compelling reason. New families can feel much more secure when the spouses or parents have an estate plan or last will in place.
Quite a few people create an estate plan and treat it as though it were a problem permanently solved. In reality, your personal property and relationships are going to continue to change throughout your adult life, which means that your estate plan and last will should probably change frequently, too.
Even if you have never updated your last wishes before, divorce is a very good reason to do so.
Your ex probably features heavily in all your paperwork
It is common for people to name their spouse as the primary beneficiary of their estate. Your spouse might also have power of attorney for your business accounts if you become incapacitated or might be a trustee for a trust that you will fund with your life insurance policy. You may even have them listed as the beneficiary of any life insurance policies you hold.
Regardless of what role your ex has in your estate plan, you probably want to completely remove them from all of your documents. Naming someone with whom you have had a less contentious relationship to manage financial issues and make medical decisions will better protect you.
You may need to rethink how you pass things to your children
If you die while your children are still minors, they will wind up living with your ex even if you get full custody in the divorce. Not only that, but your ex will be the one who has ultimate control over whatever inheritance you leave behind for your kids until they become adults.
You can protect the inheritance you want your children to receive by creating a trust. There may be other tools that can also help protect the legacy you want to leave your children, depending on whether it is a financial legacy, real estate or even a business. Discussing your divorce and how that might affect your estate plan with a lawyer is usually the first step toward updating those important documents.