Don't Overlook Estate Planning During and After Divorce

It's understandable -- a divorce takes a heavy toll. So often, you wade through custody, spousal support, and equitable distribution concerns. Unfortunately, divorce estate planning at times gets overlooked. For example, filing a divorce complaint doesn't curtail a spouse's right to inherit with Pennsylvania divorce law. So, it would be best if you talked with a divorce lawyer near you to get your estate in order following your divorce.

If you're contemplating divorce and have questions in general, read our comprehensive section on Divorce Guidance. It helps guide you through the top-level concerns relating to divorce.

Make Sure You Update Your Estate Plan with a Divorce

If a divorce settlement agreement fails to address critical components of your estate plan, you'll need to work with your divorce lawyer or estate planning attorney to update them. Here are some documents you'll want to review within your estate plan upon filing for divorce:

  • Will
  • Power of Attorney
  • Advanced Healthcare Directive
  • Trusts
  • Prenuptial Agreements

Note in some instances, Pennsylvania automatically invalidates your documents once you file for divorce. For example, Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, and Advanced Medical Directives become invalid. It's up to you to name another agent in these documents. That said, you may still retain your former spouse as your agent for Power of Attorney as long as you designate them as such following the divorce.

The same holds for Wills or a Revocable Trust. Pennsylvania statutes declare that any Will or Trust that leaves any assets to a spouse revoke. As a result, your contingent beneficiaries receive estate plan assets once grounds for divorce become established. Even if you've never prepared a Will, you should consult with your divorce lawyer regarding Pennsylvania's intestacy laws, which outline what happens when you die without a Will.

Although the above activates upon filing or establishing grounds for divorce, some items require finalization of the divorce. For instance, you cannot change beneficiary designations for life insurance, retirement plans, or pensions during divorce proceedings. Moreover, filing a divorce complaint places a restraining order on your assets. That includes changing beneficiary designations.

Reviewing Beneficiary Designations

In many ways, an easy first step concerning your estate plan and divorce involves beneficiary designations. It's not uncommon, for example, for a married person to name their spouse as beneficiary. However, divorce has a way of changing that. It's best to consult with your divorce lawyer or estate attorney to review and change your beneficiaries. Keep in mind specific requirements may determine that beneficiary designations remain intact, even post-decree.

In addition, minors demand careful attention. For example, the Pennsylvania Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (PAUTMA) prohibits minors from exercising their right to property use until 18. As a result, any designations to minors are placed in a court-monitored Trust. So if you want to name minor children as beneficiaries, you should consult with your divorce lawyer or estate attorney to ensure your children benefit.

Owing to these nuances relating to beneficiary designations, review your plan during and after the finalization of your divorce.

If You're Filing for Divorce, Talk to a Lawyer Near You

Don't wait. If you're planning to file for divorce, get in touch with a divorce lawyer or estate planning attorney sooner than later. You'll want to discuss your estate plan and its critical documents to map out potential changes to them.

Our law firm offers comprehensive legal services. Our lawyers work in our nearby law offices in Doylestown, PA, and Norristown, PA. Don't neglect divorce estate planning. Get in touch today and let us help.

Divorce Attorneys

Mary Cushing Doherty

Mary Cushing Doherty | Montgomery County Family lawyer

Mary Cushing Doherty is a senior partner at our firm. As an attorney, she concentrates her practice on all aspects of marital dissolution and family issues.

Judith A. Algeo

Judith Algeo bucks county pa family law attorney

Judith A. Algeo is a skilled family law attorney in Bucks County, PA. She represents individuals in all matters of family law including divorce, child custody, child support, spousal support and alimony, and equitable distribution.

Shari R. Gelfont Williams

shari gelfont williams at high swartz llp doylestown law office

Bucks County Attorney with 25+ years' experience in litigation with a focus on family law, estate planning, and business disputes.

Caitlin Foley

Caitlin Foley family attorney

Caitlin Foley is a highly skilled family attorney with a passion for advocating for her clients during some of the most emotional times of their lives.

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