If you are presently navigating the stressful and time-consuming process of a divorce, one of the last things on your mind is bringing your estate-planning itinerary up to date. While this oversight is understandable, a divorce can have a significant and costly impact on your existing estate plan for you, your family, and intended beneficiaries if you fail to take timely action now. The following is a handy checklist for updating your estate plan with the assistance of an experienced and trusted Bonney Lake family law attorney—which is exactly the kind of lawyer you will find when you trust Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S., with all of your legal needs and concerns.
Draft a New Will
Per Washington state statute, the specific provisions of your preexisting will that are interpreted to be in favor of your former spouse will be automatically revoked after your divorce proceedings are finalized. While this is a beneficial safeguard, you are better off to draft a new will immediately in order to remove your ex-partner and insert additional changes as needed prior to the divorce being completed. For example, a Washington court recently ruled that portions of your will that favored your former spouse’s relatives would not be automatically removed in the event of a divorce. Thus, in order to change those and similar provisions of your existing will, it is advantageous to thoroughly review the existing document with your attorney in order to determine which changes are necessary to ensure your affairs are in order.
Designate a Custodian to Oversee Inheritances for Your Children
It is a common practice in estate planning to establish a special account for children and name one or more individuals as custodians to receive, oversee, and distribute your estate’s assets for your children’s benefit after your death. If your existing will already features a similar provision involving your former spouse, you must determine whether or not you want them to retain access to the assets you are passing along to your offspring. You should then update your will to reflect your intentions regarding this issue and to ensure that your children receive the specific benefits you intend.
Reconsider Your Guardianship Preferences
Although the guardian sections of your will cannot eliminate your former spouse’s parental rights, it is essential for you to clearly and concisely delineate your guardianship preferences for your children in the case that no parent is able to fill that role. Drafting a new will along with your legal counsel will also enable you to make updates to previously existing guardianship provisions that you now want to change in light of your divorce proceedings.
Update Beneficiary Designations for Life Insurance & Retirement Accounts
If your designated beneficiary is your former spouse on specific non-probate assets, including IRAs and life insurance accounts, then the designation will be automatically retracted upon the finalization of your divorce proceedings. However, beneficiary designations that are in favor of your ex-partner for different assets, including 401(k) plans, will not be automatically removed following the completion of your divorce. For example, if your former spouse happens to be the designated primary beneficiary of your 401(k) plan, you will have to replace them with a new beneficiary. Otherwise they will be eligible to inherit that entire asset, taking priority even to your children, regardless of the fact that the initial designation took place before the divorce proceedings were initiated. You may want to consider changing all of your retirement and life insurance beneficiary choices over the course of your divorce. However, ensure that you consult with an attorney that is well-versed in these types of matters before taking any formal action so as to avoid running afoul of any court-imposed restrictions or required notices prior to your divorce being finalized. Doing so can save you a significant amount of time, money, and frustration in the future.
Create Updated Powers of Attorney for Finances and Healthcare
The power of attorney entitlements you have given to a former spouse before a divorce, which include healthcare and financial rights, are automatically eliminated upon the finalization of your divorce. However, the revocation will not be reflected in the power of attorney forms, and that may create issues with banks or medical providers in the future. The best option is to comprehensively update all of your documentation so that they all reflect your up-to-date preferences regarding who has the power of attorney for all of your legal, healthcare, and financial rights. If it so happens that you would prefer that your former spouse retains a position in assisting in the management of your financial plans or healthcare options in the event you become incapacitated, you need to make that choice explicit in the power of attorney form that is executed following the finalization of your divorce. If you fail to do so, your ex-partner will be automatically excluded per Washington state law.
Complete Asset Retitles and Realign Liabilities
After your property settlement process is officially completed, it is essential that you ensure that the title to your assets and liability documentation for debts owed is accurate according to the terms established by your divorce agreement. For example, if you were allotted certain property, you might want to have it retitled in your sole name. Or, if your former spouse now bears responsibility for a joint debt allotment, you will want to remove your name from the loan paperwork in the event he or she defaults on the required payment structure. This principle is also applicable to scenarios involving real estate, life insurance entitlements, retirement funds, joint tenant issues, and any other joint debts and obligations that were appropriated during the divorce and settlement proceedings. Once again, ensure that you review these matters with expert legal counsel prior to the finalization of your divorce. Inserting language in your official divorce document with their assistance, regarding how and when these type of actions will take place, will make the entire process significantly more efficient.
Contact the Bonney Lake Family Law Attorneys at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S.
Whether you are contemplating a divorce, looking to update your estate planning documents, or have other family law-related questions or concerns, you can rest assured that the Bonney Lake family law attorneys at Blado Kiger Bolan, P.S., have the requisite skill and legal acumen to provide you with exemplary legal service.
For more than 30 years, our Bonney Lake family law attorneys continue to successfully assist individuals in navigating the variety of legal issues that can arise with respect to all things family-law related. Please contact our legal team today or call 253-272-2997 for more information on how we can assist you in your family law matters. Your initial consultation is complimentary, and you can discuss your case with one of our highly experienced Bonney Lake family law attorneys.