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Estate Plans and Divorce: What You Need to Know

Both parties in a divorce must address estate planning issues to help ensure there are no surprises after divorce — or even in the event one spouse dies at any time before a divorce’s finalization.

The issues cited in a January 2008 Report of the Surrogate’s Court Advisory Committee resulted in a rewrite of existing law. The changes addressed conflicts in the legal provisions regarding inheritance and other bequests. However, even the revised laws do not necessarily address every possible situation.

An experienced New York estate planning attorney can look into the details of your plan to identify situations such as the following:

  • If your spouse is named to fill a fiduciary role such as trustee or executor, the law cancels these designations. The roles will not be filled until you name replacements.
  • Even though many beneficiary designations to spouses are automatically revoked upon divorce, the law does not remove bequests to relatives of a spouse. You need to decide if, for example, you still want to leave assets to the children of your former spouse from an earlier marriage.
  • You have irrevocable life insurance trusts that name your former spouse as beneficiary, which is one type of beneficiary designation that is not automatically revoked by divorce.
  • Financial institutions that hold your joint accounts continue to make payments to beneficiaries until they receive written notification of the divorce.

Unless you are ending a short-term marriage with few assets and no children, the financial issues of divorce can quickly become very complex. It is important to retain a Long Island divorce lawyer with extensive experience in these issues who can guide you through the process.

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