Protecting Your Assets: Updating Your Will After Divorce

Failing to update a Last Will and Testament (will) after a divorce can lead to unintended consequences affecting a person’s estate, assets, and children. Many of these consequences can be avoided by creating an updated estate plan. To find out why you need to update your will after divorce, consider reaching out to an experienced estate planning attorney at Von Rock Law by calling (866) 720-0195 to schedule a consultation today.

What Does a Will Protect?

According to the American Bar Association, a will is a legal document specifying how a person’s assets should be distributed at the time of his or her death. Along with that, the will often appoints an executor who carries out the person’s final wishes. A will also includes special arrangements for children by naming legal guardians to care for them. A person’s will can also be used to make charitable donations, establish trusts, and distribute assets to beneficiaries. Though a will is a part of a complete estate plan, if you only have a will in place, it is vital that you update it after a divorce or any other major life events that may impact how you wish to distribute your assets after you are gone.

How Do I Protect My Future Assets After Divorce?

One of the top reasons for drafting a will is to protect a person’s assets after his or her death. After a divorce, all marital assets must be divided in some way. However, some properties could be deemed nonmartial assets. According to the American Bar Association, nonmarital property can include money, properties, and other assets obtained before the marriage. Either way, protecting future assets is an important step to take.

Gather Vital Documents

First, gather all financial documents related to the marriage. All documents should be copied and placed in a safe location. Using these records, the former spouses can better understand their financial obligations and know all the assets associated with the marriage. These documents may include:

  • Bank account statements
  • Tax returns
  • Credit card statements 
  • Investment account statements

Locate Prenuptial or Postnuptial Agreements

Many couples choose to sign a prenuptial agreement before the wedding or a postnuptial agreement later to protect their preexisting assets. These agreements include specific plans for dividing the couple’s assets upon divorce. Along with specifying the division of property and monies, these agreements also provide a layer of protection for a person’s future assets. If you have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement in place, it is recommended to speak with an attorney to determine any obligations or rights you may have under the agreement.

Set Up Separate Financial Accounts

While some spouses may want to move their assets before the divorce is finalized, this may not be a suitable solution. The divorce proceedings can become complicated, and transferring assets at that time could be detrimental to the process. Instead, spouses may want to keep their nonmarital assets separate from their marital assets early in the marriage. If the time comes to separate, it will be easier to determine which property, bank accounts, and other investments are part of the individual spouse’s nonmarital property.

Can an Ex-Wife Still Be a Beneficiary?

Another reason to update a will after divorce is to change the beneficiaries. Although many people prefer to remove former spouses from their wills, others may neglect to take this step, which may cause conflict in new relationships. A divorce decree does not automatically remove a former spouse as a beneficiary of a will or life insurance policy. An ex-partner will remain on the policy unless the beneficiary is changed by the policyholder. If no change is made, the former spouse would be entitled to those benefits in the event of the policyholder’s death.

After a time of major change in a person’s life, he or she should take time to update life insurance policies and other vital estate planning documents. Keep these things up to date can prevent legal disputes or confusion and ensure that loved ones are provided after a former spouse’s death. 

Should I Change My Beneficiary Before Divorce?

A person who has filed for a divorce may want to review critical financial accounts. During significant life changes, reviewing and updating beneficiary designations is important, especially in conjunction with a divorce. However, making any changes may have some legal implications. For example, once the divorce proceedings have started, restraining orders may be issued to prevent one spouse from making changes on certain accounts without the other spouse’s consent or without a court order. The order can prevent one spouse from taking any action that could leave the other at a disadvantage during the divorce process.

Anyone who makes a change with a restraining order in place could be charged with a violation, leading to potential legal implications. For example, the judge could award a larger share of the assets to the one partner after the other spouse improperly moved them. Making changes to any assets before or during divorce proceedings should be done with caution and only if necessary. An attorney from Von Rock Law may be able to answer your questions about changing beneficiary designations before the divorce is final.

Does Divorce Invalidate a Will?

Divorce does have an effect on specific provisions of a will in the state of California. After a divorce, the provision that leaves property to a former spouse will be automatically revoked. In many cases, the spouse will not have to update the will after divorce. While divorce can remove specific provisions to the ex-partner in the will, that is not the case for children or other family members. With any major change, it is important to review an estate plan, especially a will. After a divorce, former spouses will want to ensure that their wishes are correctly reflected and that assets will be disturbed according to those specifications. Failing to update an estate plan, especially after a divorce, could result in unexpected consequences, leading to legal implications for other family members. 

Reach Out to a San Francisco Estate Planning Attorney Today

By not updating your will after divorce, your assets may not be distributed according to your wishes. In the state of California, a divorce will take away any provisions that favor the former spouse. Despite that, it is important to continuously review and update your will to prevent any legal implications for your loved ones. Updating a will can give a person peace of mind by safeguarding assets and children. Before making any changes, you may want to consult with an estate planning attorney to ensure the will remains legally valid. Consider scheduling a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney at Von Rock Law by calling (866) 720-0195 today.

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