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Divorce looming? Now is the time to review your estate plan

Making your estate plan was a wise and thoughtful move. Barely half of those in Texas and across the country take the time and effort to make a plan that will protect and provide for their families after they are gone, as well as creating some security for themselves as they age. Unfortunately, your estate plan may be the farthest thing from your mind if you and your spouse are preparing to divorce.

You should know that divorce is one very important reason to revisit and revise your estate plan. While you may plan to see your attorney to amend your estate planning documents as soon as your divorce is finalized, there are certain measures that may need your immediate attention.

Protecting yourself and your estate

You may feel perfectly healthy, but you never know what life will deal you, and it is not unheard of for someone who is weeks from a divorce decree to suddenly fall ill or pass away, leaving the estate in the hands of the estranged spouse. Therefore, you will want to consider these factors:

  • Texas law nullifies your spouse's inheritance at the finalization of your divorce, but if you should pass away before that date, the inheritance remains as your estate plan indicates.
  • If your will names your spouse's children, then your divorce does not affect any provisions you made for them in your will.
  • Your divorce does not affect or change an irrevocable trust that names your spouse as beneficiary unless the trust also includes a clause removing your spouse in the event of a divorce.
  • Your revocable trust, however, likely follows the same laws as the will, invalidating your spouse's inheritance when the judge signs the divorce decree.
  • Modifications in your estate plan do not change any designations you have made on life insurance policies, pensions and other benefits, so you will want to examine those documents and inform your financial institutions of the divorce.

Perhaps most urgent is your attention to your power of attorney and medical directive. Like most married couples, you and your spouse may have named each other as agents of these critical documents. Remember that until the judge signs the divorce decree, those designations remain valid. If you should fall ill during divorce proceedings, you may not feel at ease having your estranged spouse making life and death decisions for you.

You may feel overwhelmed with the details you must attend to because of your impending divorce. However, leaving your estate plan issues unresolved could have devastating consequences. Speaking with your estate-planning attorney can put your mind at ease and answer your many questions.

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