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What to change in an estate plan during a divorce

In addition to the many tasks a person needs to do as part of the divorce process in North Carolina, it may be necessary to update the estate plan. For example, a person may want to choose someone other than the spouse to make healthcare decisions in case of becoming incapacitated. Unless the divorce is amicable, the person may also want to choose someone else for the financial power of attorney because this gives the spouse control over all the person’s assets.

However, before making too many changes, a person should understand what can and cannot legally be done prior to the divorce. If possible, the person may need to update the will. A person may not be permitted to disinherit a spouse if the divorce is not final but leave a minimum under state law. It may also not be possible to change beneficiary designations although people should make sure to do this after the divorce if necessary. It is not unusual for people to forget about these documents, and it can be a costly mistake. Trusts may also need amending.

If there is a pre- or postnuptial agreement, the new estate plan should be consistent with it. A person may want to review and revise the estate plan again after the divorce is final.

There are other actions a person may not be able to take during a divorce with joint finances or children, and it may be a good idea to check with an attorney to find out what those are. One of the difficult elements of divorce is balancing the emotional aspects with the legal and financial ones, but it is important to understand the ramifications of property division and child custody decisions.

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