The divorce and legal separation process can be a trying time. However, as long as you are working with an experienced divorce and family law attorney for your divorce, it may also be a good time to consider either making an estate plan or updating any estate plan you already have in place.
OBTAINING AN ESTATE PLAN
If you do not have an estate plan, the state of New York has a ready-made estate plan for you. Your property will be disposed of pursuant to state law. Depending on whether or not you have children, your spouse will inherit all or a significant portion of your estate, even if you were planning to divorce, if the divorce is not final at the time of your death.
An estate plan also allows you to select people to make decisions about your health care and end of life care. By creating an estate plan, you can ensure the person you want to make the decisions is known. There is no guarantee your verbally expressed wishes will be respected absent a properly executed estate plan.
MODIFYING AN ESTATE PLAN
If you already have an estate plan, it is likely you created this plan while you were married. Many, if not most, married couples execute estate plans that are mutually beneficial, meaning one spouse inherits all when the other spouse dies. If you divorcing, you should change this wording – unless, of course, you still want your spouse to inherit everything.
You should also give some thought about who you have granted power of attorney. Many estate plans include designating someone to make decisions if you become incapacitated. If you don't want your soon to be ex-spouse making life or death decisions for you, you should update your estate plan accordingly.
MAKE THINGS EASY ON YOUR LOVED ONES
Your loved ones are going to have a hard enough time dealing with your death. Don't make it harder by leaving them wondering if your current estate plan, (or the current laws of New York state) accurately reflect how you want your end of life decisions made and your possessions distributed. By updating your estate plan, you can reduce, or potentially eliminate the possibility of disputes among your potential heirs.
This can save your family time, heartache, and money, as they won't have to pay attorneys to litigate what you may or may not have wanted. It also takes those decisions out of the hands of a probate court and back into yours – where the decision belongs. Even if you wish your previously made decisions to stand, a simple update will put an end to any questions your family may have.
IF YOU ARE CONTEMPLATING A DIVORCE
If you are thinking about a divorce or legal separation in New York, contact Frost & Kavanaugh. We've been practicing family law cases for decades. Let us put our experience to work for you. We look forward to working with you and your family.