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15. Estate Planning Concerns



A. Before starting your case
You may want to consider talking to your lawyer about your estate plan before you start the divorce process. It is not unusual to encounter problems during the divorce concerning problems that could have been handled more satisfactorily if the lawyers were able to address particular issues before filing for divorce. Often a good estate plan is drafted in a manner that is entirely inconsistent with a good result in a divorce.
B. At the beginning of the case
You may have an estate plan or will that gives your entire estate and life insurance to your spouse if you die. This plan does not necessarily change because someone files for divorce. Talk to your lawyer about what changes, if any, you need to make and are able to make in your estate plan while the divorce is pending.
Not only should you review your will, you should review the beneficiary designations for your life insurance and retirement plans, including IRAs, and discuss with your lawyer what changes, if any, to make. If you are holding property with your spouse in a form that would give it all to your spouse on your death, you may want to change the form of title.
During the divorce proceedings there may be restraining orders that temporarily limit your right to change title to property or beneficiaries of insurance and death benefits; however, discuss your estate plans with your lawyer.
C. After the divorce
In some states a divorce will automatically change your estate plan. In other states it will not. So when the case is over, update your estate plan to be consistent with the judgment and with what you want to happen to your estate.

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