Most State Laws Protect Spouses’ Rights
State laws vary from state to state on the rights of spouses and children following the death of spouse or parent. Most states have laws which protect the rights of the spouse (and sometimes the children) to share in the marital property, so one spouse cannot leave everything the couple acquired during the marriage to someone else upon his/her death.
Estate Law Following a Divorce
Most states have laws which address what happens to marital property following a divorce. A will which was executed while the couple was married may be no longer valid once a divorce process has been started. The best thing to do if you are going through, or have been through, a divorce is to update your will so there is no question as to where your assets should go.
Joint Accounts and Beneficiaries
Many couple own property jointly and each account must be individually contacted in order to change ownership. Joint accounts become the sole property of the surviving spouse if one of the joint account holders passes away. Each financial institution will provide their own instructions for removing an account holder from a joint account, and though it may take some time to go through the process, it should be a top priority following a divorce.
Beneficiary designations also must be changed if the spouse does not want to have his/her ex-spouse named as the beneficiary for life insurance, retirement accounts, or pensions. You may need to provide documentation of your divorce. Each fund or insurance policy may have different requirements. If you have established a trust for the benefit of your children, you may also need to change the trustee designation if the designated trustee is your former spouse or your former in-laws.
Language in your Divorce Documents
Carefully review your court order as it relates to beneficiaries or trusts before making any changes to your policies. Many court orders require spouses to maintain life insurance to secure future child support payments and also order the named beneficiary. Sometimes court orders also require a spouse to receive pension or retirement assets at a later date.
Getting Legal Help
If you are going through a divorce it is important to contact an experienced estate planning attorney as soon as possible to help you protect and preserve your assets. An estate planning attorney is specifically qualified to create an estate plan which abides by the family law court order and also protects those you love. Contact us with any questions by clicking here or call our office at 832.510.2900 to schedule a complimentary consultation.