Don’t Forget the Will
If you’re in the middle of a divorce, it can seem like the rest of your life is on hold. You have less time to spend on your career, friends, hobbies, and even family members as you navigate the obstacles and meet the demands of the divorce process. However, estate planning is too important to ignore. If you pass away before filing for divorce or even before the divorce is finalized, your spouse may end up with a large share of your estate.
If you’re considering a divorce but haven’t filed yet, you should think about changing your will before you do. If you’ve already begun the divorce process, you might feel too overwhelmed to deal with any more legal issues, but this is a very good time to change your will. In fact, the requirements of the divorce process mean you’ll already have assembled all of the documentation you’d need to provide your estate planning attorney. Finally, if you’ve completed the divorce process and still have a pre-divorce will, your first priority must be writing a new one.
Changing your will before a divorce
If you know just a little about estate planning law in New Jersey, you might think it doesn’t make sense for you to change your will now. After all, the spouse of a decedent is entitled to claim about one-third of an estate, after debts and expenses are paid, no matter what the will says. This means that if you die during a divorce, a new will disinheriting your spouse wouldn’t matter: that person would still be entitled to one-third of your estate.
There are exceptions, however. Even if you die intestate (without a will), a spouse who did not live with you, or who was involved in something that would justify divorce (like adultery), might lose the right to claim any part of your estate.
It still makes sense to change your will now, though. If you don’t, the heirs you would have named will face a difficult and potentially expensive probate process trying to prove that you and your spouse were moving toward a divorce because of separation or some “fault,” like adultery. If you’ve already changed your will to reflect your wishes, you could save them time and money, and ensure that your estate goes where you want it to go.
Changing your will during or after a divorce
You may be hesitant to take on another legal endeavor in the middle of your divorce; and after a divorce you may feel burnt-out and in need of a break from courts, attorneys, and legal terminology. However, the divorce process actually prepares you to write or update a will. The same documents you need during the discovery process of a divorce – pay stubs, tax returns, and information on assets, pensions, and investments – comprise everything you’d need to provide an estate planning attorney.
If you’re in the middle of a divorce, it doesn’t make sense to write and finalize a new will, because the will would pertain to assets that you’re currently in the process of dividing. That’s OK. You can – and should – still start to lay the groundwork for a new will that you can adjust and finalize after a settlement agreement or court order has divided your assets. Also, thinking about the assets you want to leave behind for your loved ones during the divorce process might help you to understand your current priorities and could influence your strategy as you move through the division of assets phase.
The Salvaggio Law Group LLC client-focused approach
Remember that when you’re going through a divorce, the people you choose to help you form a team – and you’re the captain. If you retain an experienced New Jersey divorce attorney and an estate planning attorney at the same time, they shouldn’t be working separately. They both ought to be engaged in the same effort: helping you secure a happier, comfortable future after this difficult time, and protecting your assets for you and your loved ones. Your divorce and estate planning attorneys should be communicating regularly and working together to share documents (saving them time and saving you money) and come up with a comprehensive strategic plan for your future.
At Salvaggio Law Group LLC, we realize that each client’s situation is unique and believe that you deserve the full support of our experience and attention. Let us work with your estate planning attorney to secure your future, and your estate. Contact our office today to set up a consultation.