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Don't overlook your estate plan when going through divorce

When you're going through a divorce, it's normal to be primarily concerned with issues like property division, spousal and child support, custody and parenting time schedules. These are things that are likely to affect your day-to-day schedule in the here and now, and they are common areas of disagreement in the family courts. However, it's also important to think about and plan for the future when you are drawing up a divorce settlement and deciding who gets what.

If you didn't already address what would happen in the case of a divorce in your existing estate plan -- or you don't have an estate plan at all -- you'll need to make sure there are provisions in the divorce agreement for things like life insurance policies and trusts, and make sure your estate plan is altered accordingly after the divorce as well.

For example, many people aren't aware that they may need to carry a life insurance policy with their ex as the beneficiary until their children are of age. This is usually done to protect the surviving spouse and the children financially if one parent dies and the other must assume the full care and duties of the children. While you may choose to put your ex on as a beneficiary to a regular life insurance policy and then have the person removed when the youngest child turns 18, there are other things to consider. Under this arrangement, there is little to no stipulation on how the money can be spent and for what once it is dispersed to the beneficiary. If you want more control over this, it may be helpful to consider a revocable living trust or something similar.

If you're not sure how your divorce could or should affect your estate plan, it may be helpful to talk with an estate planning attorney while you are still in the process of negotiating a settlement. In some situations, it may work best if the estate planning part is settled before you move on to the divorce issues. However, no matter how or when these issues are discussed, it's important to talk with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that any agreement or proposed estate plan protects your interests.

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