Estate Planning and Divorce in California
Divorce represents a serious transition in the life of anyone who goes through the often difficult process. What many people lose sight of along the way, however, is how intertwined estate planning and divorce can be—and often are. The legal (and emotional) complexities of divorce can divert your attention away from estate planning when you may need it most, but the experienced Los Angeles estate planning attorneys at Kushner Legal may be able to help. Consider calling (310) 279-5166.
Addressing Estate Planning Concerns Prior to Divorce
According to California Courts, when a couple is facing divorce in California, each spouse is well advised to address estate planning concerns prior to the finalization of the divorce. If a couple divorces without carefully revising estate plans, one spouse’s estate could pass to his or her former spouse (or to the former spouse and their children) upon his or her death. Further, if one spouse should become incapacitated and unable to make primary decisions on behalf of his or her own health and best interests, the former spouse could be in charge of the decision-making process (in terms of both health care and finances), which may not be the intention. Consulting with a trusted estate planning attorney at Kushner Legal in Los Angeles may be a beneficial step in the process of effectively addressing your estate planning and divorce.
When it comes to estate planning and divorce, there are several important factors to consider, including the:
- Will and/or trust
- Beneficiary designations
- Powers of attorney
Will and/or Trust
Upon a person’s death, ownership of his or her assets will transfer to the loved ones according to the person’s wishes as outlined in his or her will. Those assets that are included in a trust, however, according to the State of California Department of Justice, can avoid the potentially complicated and lengthy probate process that a will often dictates. In response to the filing of a divorce, each spouse will want to reconsider how certain assets should be distributed. It is important to note that, in California, there are specific changes to an estate plan that cannot be made prior to the divorce itself. Consulting with an attorney experienced in estate planning can help to protect your legal rights in support of your estate planning preferences.
Many people who endure the divorce process fail to address the matter of their beneficiary designations in various account. Common examples include:
- Retirement accounts
- Bank and brokerage accounts that are set up to transfer on death (TOD)
- Life insurance policies
Changing the named beneficiary on certain kinds of accounts in California, however, requires spousal consent, which means that the former couple will need to address those matters as soon as possible after the divorce is final.
Powers of Attorney
If a spouse is named as the agent for a healthcare and/or financial durable power of attorney, the divorcing couple will likely want to make changes as soon as possible after deciding to seek a divorce. Failure to makes these changes means that the former husband or wife will retain the right to make primary healthcare decisions and will have unlimited access to financial assets in the event his or her ex-spouse becomes incapacitated. While any powers of attorney held by a previous spouse will be automatically revoked when the divorce becomes final, the divorce process is often lengthy, and self-protection from the outset is paramount.
An Alternate Guardian
When parents of minor children divorce and one of the parents dies, the other parent will become the children’s sole legal guardian, as would happen if the parents were not divorced. However, divorcing couples should also consider the ramifications of the surviving parent passing away before the children reach adulthood. In situations where children lose both parents, California courts look to their guardian’s will for guidance. If the parent who died most recently does not have a will that addresses the children’s guardianship, the court will turn to the will of the children’s other parent. In other words, it is important that each parent’s will addresses the matter of a guardian for the minor children to prevent confusion in this unfortunate future scenario.
Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorney
If you are facing a divorce, an understandably difficult experience, addressing the important matter of estate planning and divorce will protect your financial interests and your peace of mind. The seasoned estate planning attorneys at Kushner Legal in Los Angeles understand the gravity of your concerns and are committed to protecting their clients’ legal rights while addressing estate planning needs. For more information and to schedule a consultation, consider calling (310) 279-5166 today.