Separation and Divorce are stressful times. There are many factors to consider and meeting with a divorce attorney will perhaps open up more questions than answers.
However, it is critical that the divorcing spouse be aware of what could happen in the interim…that time between the separation and the final divorce decree.
If one spouse dies during the “pre-divorce” period – what might happen?
From an estate planning perspective: Here are some steps to take immediately after the decision to separate and BEFORE the final divorce:
- Review all your beneficiary designation changes, including insurance policies, IRA’s, as well as stock option plans, pension plans, etc
- Review all trust and family trust documents. Make sure you have copies in your possession.
- Review/revise your estate plan and decide if (what) you want your soon-to-be ex to inherit
- Review your will and revise immediately. Do not wait until the final divorce decree.
- Decide changes of guardianships/conservator of any minor children e.g. do you still want your soon-to-be ex-in law named as a guardian?
- You are on your way to possibly becoming a single parent. Review successor trustee arrangements to protect your minor children. Do you still want your soon-to-be-ex-sister-in-law as a successor trustee?
- Deeds (Land, Property, etc) – if a divorcing spouse dies before the final divorce decree has been entered, the couple is still married. (Note the word ‘divorcing’ and not ‘divorced’!) The divorcing spouse could be entitled to all rights and privileges of a spouse and there is the potential of an “unintentional” inheritance.
- Small Businesses – if you own a business with your spouse, or they sit on the Board of Directors; own shares or hold an executive position in the company– then divorce is particularly fraught with legal issues. To protect your investment, consult with an attorney as soon as a decision to separate/divorce has been made.
- Retain access to banking information and safe deposit box details.
- The best advice is to seek the counsel of a qualified attorney before filing for divorce and be mindful of what can happen during the interim.
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