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Don't forget your estate plan as you divorce

Most people don't have an estate plan in place when they divorce. Too many people put off estate planning for as long as possible -- sometimes too long. However, if you do have one, it's essential to make the necessary changes to reflect your new marital status and ensure that your interests and your loved ones' needs are still protected.

While you're going to be consumed with the divorce process, you still need to give some thought before the divorce is final to what documents in your estate plan you need to amend. You may also need to add some since you'll be a single person again.

If you and your spouse have a will together, you'll need to have that replaced by a separate one. The same may be true with some or all of your trusts.

Trusts are set up for a variety of reasons, so you'll want to talk with an attorney who is experienced with estate planning to determine how best to continue to provide for your beneficiaries. As we recently discussed here, if you have a trust set up for your children, you may want to ensure that the funds can't go to children that your estranged spouse may have later with another partner.

Revisit any powers of attorney (POA) documents in which you've given decision-making authority to your spouse. Married couples often give each other the authority to handle their health care decisions and their finances if they become incapacitated. Most, but not all, couples, choose to give that authority to someone else when they divorce.

If you and your spouse designated guardians for your children in case something happened to both of you, you may want to reconsider those. If you named your in-laws as guardians, and now, they're no longer speaking to you, you may not feel comfortable with the idea of them raising your kids. However, if you named friends or family members whom both you and your co-parent continue to trust, that's one less thing you have to worry about.

It's essential to talk with the attorney who did your estate planning or another one you trust as well as with the attorney handling your divorce to ensure that your interests and those of your loved ones will continue to be protected by your estate plan as you enter this new stage of your life.

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