Once a person becomes legally separated from a spouse, the focus may be on retaining a divorce attorney. Did you know that it can also be important to locate a qualified estate planning attorney as soon as possible? Let us discuss the legal risks your estate plan faces, during the time of marital separation.
While your divorce is pending, your soon to be ex-spouse will still legally be your spouse and thus, likely to remain the beneficiary via your estate planning documents, or, if you pass away without a will, be deemed your legal next of kin. It can be imperative, therefore, to meet with an estate planning attorney, as soon as you become separated, to update these legal documents and protect your estate.
Separation can also be a good time to update legal tools such as your health care surrogate and/or durable power of attorney. It may be good to designate a family member or close friend to serve as your power of attorney, if your soon to be ex-spouse is who you have designated. Otherwise, your soon to be ex-spouse may be able to make financial decisions on your behalf, while the divorce is pending. In addition, should you become mentally incapacitated, your ex-spouse may be the one making medical and/or financial decisions on your behalf.
As soon as you separate, it may also be a good time to update accounts in your name with new user IDs and passwords to prevent any unauthorized transfers or changes. You may also want to update email passwords that your soon to be ex-spouse may be in possession of, as you move toward divorce proceedings to assure confidentiality, regarding the decisions you are making. You may also need to update the named beneficiary on your retirement accounts, insurance policies and bank accounts. You may, however, need to wait until after the divorce is finalized to update beneficiaries.
The necessity of updating your estate plan, during an already trying time, may be complicated and overwhelming when dealing with many new unknowns. Our office can provide guidance on all of these changes, giving you the peace of mind that your estate may be safeguarded. Please contact us today to schedule an appointment.