Learn from our expert why estate planning for divorce is a key step in ensuring your assets and future are protected.
When you’re going through a divorce, the future may seem scary and unknown. While it may not be top of mind, estate planning for divorce and all the subsequent decisions and plans should be! Hear from today’s expert, Erin Nobles, on how estate planning for divorce and beyond is critical to a successful next chapter and for feeling like you are in control of your future.
How does your estate planning work impact the lives of women going through divorce?
I like to think that the work I do at Nobles Law helps my clients to gain clarity and a sense of control when the future is uncertain. I think this really resonates with my clients who are experiencing divorce or who have just come out on the other side. As an estate planning lawyer, my job is to help my clients make sure that their decision making autonomy is respected during their life as well as ensuring that when they die, their loved ones are protected from creditors and predators and not subjected to a confusing and archaic probate court process. Ensuring your personal autonomy is respected can mean executing an Advance Directive for Health Care to make sure that your soon to be ex-spouse would not have control over your health care or end-of-life decision making if you get sick. Additionally, writing or revising a Last Will and Testament or Living Trust to keep assets intended for your children out of the wrong hands in the event of your death can be a positive next step in creating your new life. For women who have completed their divorce, working with an experienced estate planner to strategize on an ongoing basis as their families and assets evolve can be an important way to regain a sense of balance.
Does the work you do take place before, during or after divorce?
I can counsel women at any stage of the process, but once a petition for Dissolution of Marriage has been filed, there may be limits to what I can do. That is why it’s really important that you create or update your estate plan as soon as you know a split is inevitable. This can mean writing or revising your Will, amending beneficiary designations, and ensuring your Advance Directive for Health Care is up to date. The basic rule of estates is that until your divorce is final, your marriage is legally in full effect. This means if you die or become incapacitated while your divorce is ongoing and haven’t created or revised your estate plan, your soon-to-be ex-spouse could end up with control over your life and assets by default. Given that you’re ending the relationship, you probably wouldn’t want him or her having that much power. The good news is that you can (and should) change your agent under your Power of Attorney for Finances and your Advance Directive for Health Care at any time in a divorce proceeding. Most married couples name each other as the primary personal representative under their Wills. This is something that can be changed either before or during the pendency of a Dissolution proceeding. It’s important to know, however, that until your divorce is final, your soon-to-be ex-spouse would have a right to make a claim against your estate in the event of your death…no matter what your Will says. Additionally, attempting to change beneficiaries on your life insurance policies or investments can create serious complications. Whatever you do, don’t try to make these changes on your own.
What tactic do you recommend for successfully moving through divorce?
My top tactic for moving through divorce is the same as my tactic for estate planning in general – assemble your team of professionals. When I’m working with a family, I will connect them with others who I think can help…be that in securing additional life insurance, helping with budgeting, or shoring up other legal issues. That is why I love Divorce Squad so much! You’re not expected to know how to do everything…you’ve probably never done this before! Don’t be afraid to ask questions and find experts who can help you.
How does working with you minimize divorce stress?
During the divorce process, your primary planning goal is limiting your soon-to-be ex’s control over your life and assets should you die or become incapacitated before the divorce is final. Remember that the individuals you grant powers of attorney, name as trustee, designate as beneficiaries, or add to your plan in any other way while the divorce is ongoing are often just temporary. If you can remember that, you will likely feel less stressed out about the process. Estate planning isn’t carved in stone…you can always change your mind. And then, once your divorce is final and your marital property has been divided up, you can (and probably should) revisit all of your planning documents and update them based on your new asset profile and living situation. From there, your plan should continuously evolve as your life changes, especially following major life events, such as getting remarried, having additional children, and when close family members pass away.
I tell clients that while it is important to get the right legal documents in place, often the greatest gift I think I give them is the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their affairs are in order and the people they love are protected. Proper estate planning for divorce can keep your family out of conflict, out of court, and out of the public eye. If you’re ready to create a comprehensive estate plan, I’d love to talk to you. Please reach out to Nobles Law to schedule a meeting with me. Even if you already have a plan in place, we will review it and help you bring it up to date to avoid heartache for your family.
Contact Erin Nobles today to learn more about estate planning for divorce and how she can help you take your next step forward with confidence, security and in control.