Palmer Rodak & Associates
Palmer Rodak & Associates
Certified Family Law Specialists State Bar of California Board of Legal SpecializationServing your Community for 19 Years
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Estate plan changes before your divorce

Whether you have informed your spouse of your intention to file for divorce or are waiting for the right moment, you likely have a list of things you must take care of before you begin divorce proceedings. You may need to secure a new place to live, cancel credit cards and start a separate bank account. You probably have packing to do, and you may even need to obtain a realtor to sell your home.

Among those important things to accomplish before the divorce decree is signed, you would be wise to add a review of your estate plan. While some documents automatically adjust to your changes in marital status, you may place yourself and your estate at risk if you wait until that day to make important changes.

Wills and trusts

California law wisely protects you from oversights by nullifying your spouse's designations in your will and revocable trust. On the day a judge signs your divorce decree, the law considers your spouse as having predeceased you, so the rest of the designations in those documents remain as you executed them.

The critical concern is that you may meet an untimely death before your divorce is final. Your estate plan is in full effect until the signature is on the decree, which means your future ex-spouse will receive the full inheritance you assigned in the will or trust. If this is distasteful to you, making those changes in your will or trust as soon as possible after deciding to divorce is the best alternative.

It is also important to know that any irrevocable trust in your estate plan cannot be changed even if you divorce your spouse unless you have included such a provision in the language of the trust.

Urgent matters to consider

Estate planning advisors say that one of the first changes you should make to your estate plan, perhaps before you tell your spouse you want a divorce, is to remove your spouse as your agent in your power of attorney. This is another element of your plan that remains in full force until the day your divorce is official. If you should become ill, injured or incapacitated before that day, you may not want your spouse to have such power over your life and death decisions.

The same may be true for your living will and health care directive and any designations on investment accounts, life insurance and retirement plans. In fact, you may have numerous elements of your estate plan that need your urgent attention before you move further along with your divorce.

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Palmer Rodak & Associates
Certified Family Law Specialists State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization

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Del Mar, CA 92014

Phone: 858-356-4568
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