How Divorce can Affect Your Long-Term Plans

A woman from New York drafted a will in 1996, years before she got divorced in 2007. In this will, she named her then-husband as the primary beneficiary and her father-in-law, the secondary beneficiary, of the $200,000 house that she inherited from her parents. This woman remarried and had kids with her new husband before she died in 2010. Due to the will that she left, however, her new family ended up in dispute with her former in-law, who stands to inherit her property.

Under the laws of the state of New York, her ex-husband is automatically cut out of her will (due to divorce); however, these same laws do not cut out the second beneficiary named in a will, which is the father-in-law. Thus, despite her new family’s claim that she made a new will after the divorce to change the beneficiaries, no one was able to locate this new will to be presented as evidence. Due to this, the court had no choice but to uphold the will that she wrote in 1996.

The law protects spouses against disinheritance only until they take steps to end their marriage. Divorce terminates all inheritance rights and so does a signed separation agreement. Unless the decedent specifically states in his will he wants his former spouse to inherit or execute his estate regardless of their divorce, a divorce decree overrides anything he leaves her in his will and she cannot act as executor of his estate. Divorce ends a spouse’s right to an elective share.

Estate planning is one important legal matter that many married couples attend to. Estate planning, which describes what will happen to a person’s assets and properties, should he/she pass away, includes wills and trusts. While the contents of an estate plan, specifically, a will, may be questioned by the beneficiaries mentioned or not mentioned, divorce, can render its contents canceled.

The properties and assets that are most often contained in a will are a person’s personal or private properties which may include: anything owned by a person prior to marriage; properties or assets a person inherits, whether before or during marriage; personal injury settlement paid him/her, whether in the form of cash or asset; and, assets given to a spouse as marriage gifts.

A will should clearly identify the properties and assets a person wants to leave behind; it should also clearly specify the names of the persons to whom he/she wishes to leave which specific property. In a will, it is but only natural to find the name of a spouse as primary heir and the names of the children as secondary heirs. In the event of divorce, however, the issue about spouses being heirs totally changes.

In some states, like Arizona, California and Texas, there is a law which says that ex-spouses are prohibited from collecting on a will that was written prior to divorce. However, in some other states, such as Pennsylvania, divorced spouses are allowed to make a claim or a legal share, but only if no new will (which will automatically revoke the old one) exists. It is necessary that this new will includes a revocation clause that specifically mentions the cancellation of the previously drafted will. Without this revocation clause, then the ex-spouse can legally challenge the relatives or the new family of his/her (now dead) former partner – a legal battle that can drag on for many months and which can cost both parties huge amounts of cash.

Divorce, according to BB Law Group PLLC, brings dramatic life changes for an estimated 1.3 million couples a year in America. One of the most challenging life changes includes the economic and financial implications and repercussions of divorce.

Minding family financial matters can be a very worrisome concern – but only because many are led to believe that making financial plans for their loved ones’ future (after they die) is only for the wealthy class. People tend to dismiss the thought that the things they have, no matter how ‘not so expensive’ these may be, are worth bequeathing to their spouse and/or child. A house, a car, an antique jewelry, an antique table or furniture, an insurance policy, retirement pay, an old painting, or a small business, maybe – these things are worth passing on to all who people care for.

According to the Arenson Law Group PC, while understandably not the most pleasant of tasks, planning for the future of your loved ones in the event that anything should happen to you can help to provide you and those closest to you with considerable peace of mind, knowing that everything is taken care of beforehand. Furthermore, effective estate planning can help to protect what is rightfully yours and to prevent the possibility of disputes and conflict among family members or other parties.

Unfortunately, due to complex tax and estate laws, making sure your family is taken care of can be frustrating and difficult. With the right legal guidance, though, you can rest assured that your property and affairs will be protected and handled just the way you want them to be handled.

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