5 Ways to Protect Your Estate after a Divorce
- Check your titled assets
- Re-do beneficiary assignments
- Revisit your will
- Consider a trust
- Call your family
After taking care to untangle your property in your divorce, it’s a good idea to do a quick audit of your estate planning to make sure that your assets don’t accidentally go to your ex. Here are five easy steps to protect your estate after a divorce.
1. Check your titled assets
If property went to you in the divorce (for instance, a vehicle or home), it’s time to dig up the title and make sure that it is actually titled in your name only. The same goes for any joint bank accounts or payable on death (“POD”) accounts. At your death, these will all pass directly to the other owner based on title regardless of what your divorce decree or will say.
2. Re-do your beneficiary designations
These are the forms you fill out for accounts such as your 401(k) or life insurance policy to indicate who should get those funds in the event of your death. You’d be surprised how often people forget to update these forms after divorce, resulting in money unintentionally going to an ex.
3. Revisit your will
In many states, your divorce decree automatically alters your will and other related documents (such as your power of attorney) to remove your ex without you having to do anything. Don’t assume this is the case in your state – be sure to check out your local laws. And even if this is the case in your state, you are still going to want to revisit your plan. Divorce often dramatically alters the landscape of who you trust and rely on. Review everything to be sure it still aligns with your wishes.
4. Consider a trust
If you have a minor child, chances are they are the primary beneficiary of your estate planning. It’s important to understand that if your ex is the child’s other parent, they are the natural guardian and likely to gain control over any funds that go to your child if you pass away before the child reaches adulthood.
Consider creating a revocable living trust (starts during your lifetime) or testamentary trust (starts at your death) for your child’s benefit. This way, you can name someone other than your ex to be the trustee (caretaker) of those funds. An estate planning attorney can help you to set this up.
5. Call your family
It’s not uncommon for spouses to end up in the estate plans of one another’s family members. Check in with your parents, siblings, or other close family members to be sure that your ex isn’t inadvertently left in a plan where they no longer belong.
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