Updating Your Estate Plans After a Divorce

By Chris Tymchuck
Founding Attorney

If you are currently going through a divorce, or have recently gone through a divorce, you are likely focused on important topics like child custody, division of assets, and alimony. However, you should not neglect another important topic: your estate. Many individuals who go through a divorce dread adding another task to their to-do list, however it is critically important you take the time to update your estate plans if you and your spouse are separating. An experienced Minnesota estate planning attorney can help you assess your estate plans after a divorce and rework them as needed to help you address concerns related to assets your former spouse will receive.

Create a New Will

One of the first steps you should take after finalizing your divorce is to revoke any will you have created and have an experienced Minnesota estate planning attorney draw up a new one. In most marriages, wills leave everything to the surviving spouse and identify the spouse as the executor of the estate, meaning that if this language is not changed there is a risk your former spouse will have a claim to your assets or will be in charge of distributing your assets. The overwhelming majority of states provide that in the event of a divorce, your former spouse’s name will be removed from you will as if they had preceded you in death. Even though this is the case, you should never leave anything to chance and should draft an entirely new will to ensure your intent is carried out, being sure to specify a new executor and new beneficiaries.

Assess Your Non-Will Beneficiary Designations

Like many people, you may have a life insurance policy, a 401(k), and IRA, and multiple bank accounts. You cannot simply specify in your will whom is to receive these assets, as you must specify on the policies or account forms themselves who should receive them. In particular, changing the beneficiaries on these kinds of accounts can seem like a particularly time-consuming hassle. However, you cannot neglect updating these accounts; if you do not, no one will, and you run the risk of these accounts passing to your former spouse when you pass away, rather than your truly intended beneficiaries.

Update Your Custody Provisions

If you have children and are divorced, it is especially important that your estate plan specify your wishes as to who will serve as the guardian to your children upon your death. While some divorced individuals are comfortable specifying that their former spouse should have custody, in some situations a former spouse may not be fit to have custody of the children. While courts ultimately have the final say on who will get custody of your children, your estate plan can influence their decision.

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About the Author
As a Minneapolis Estate Planning and Probate attorney I help build and protect families through the adoption, estate planning, and probate processes. I also have experience working with families on issues related to their small businesses. I know how difficult it is to find time to plan for the future and I am here to help walk you through it.