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What estate plan changes should you consider during divorce?

When you put your estate plan in place, your attorney likely advised you that you'll need to modify it when important life changes occur. If you're considering divorce or it's already on the horizon, that's one of those life changes.

While you'll need to make changes after the divorce is finalized, there are modifications that you should consider before that time. If you were to be hit by a truck tomorrow, are you comfortable with your soon-to-be-ex having the authority over your affairs that you likely granted him or her when you drafted your estate documents?

If your spouse has power of attorney over your finances if you become incapacitated and/or is executor of your estate, are you still comfortable with that? Depending on your relationship and level of trust, you may be. If not, you need to look for someone you do trust to have those responsibilities if you die or can no longer make decisions for yourself.

If you have a health care proxy (which everyone should), you've likely named your spouse as the person responsible for carrying out your wishes if you become seriously injured or ill and can't speak for yourself. If you were run over by that proverbial truck tomorrow and ended up in the hospital attached to multiple tubes, would you still be comfortable with him or her having that authority? If not, change it.

Review all documents that designate what assets your spouse will receive if you pass away. This includes your will and trusts. If you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, ensure that any changes to your estate plan don't contradict what's in that agreement.

Once the divorce is final, it will be necessary to again look at your estate plan documents to see what more you can and should update. This should include your beneficiary designations.

It's essential to consult with your estate planning attorney before, during and after your divorce. You also need to discuss any changes you're considering with your divorce attorney to make sure that no changes violate the terms of the divorce agreement. This can help you avoid costly and inconvenient legal issues.

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