As the end of the year gets closer and closer, our attorneys at Stolfe Zeigler New Jersey Family Law Group would like to remind you of the importance of year-end estate planning. An estate plan is legal documents that explain your plans and wishes after you have died or if you become incapacitated. This plan is all about you and your needs, which is why you should ensure that it will benefit you and protect your family’s future. 

Even if you have already made an estate plan, it is recommended to review the documents every so often, as major personal changes could have occurred since you last updated them, such as deaths, divorces or the growing number of people in your family.

How Divorce Affects Your Estate Plan in NJ

In New Jersey, laws state that a divorce revokes some of the rights of your ex-spouse in your estate. Therefore, if you have a will that leaves certain assets to your spouse or names them as the personal representative, but you died or got a divorce without changing your will, there is a chance that your ex-spouse may not inherit what you have left to them in your will. He or she also may not be able to serve as the personal representative of your estate. 

On the other hand, a divorce does not automatically void your ex-spouse as the beneficiary on your retirement fund or insurance policies. That is why it is very important to review your estate plans that you made in the past and make sure they align with your current life. It is especially important to ensure everything is in writing and not depend on the state to revoke your ex-spouse’s rights for you. 

Protect What Matters Most 

If you have children and you pass away before your divorce is final, your children may instead receive your assets. However, if you do not have children, your soon-to-be ex is still considered your spouse in New Jersey and may still receive part or all of your estate. The custodian of your accounts will distribute your assets to your beneficiary, who is named on the insurance or retirement or savings account documents you signed. 

Estate Litigation

If your ex-spouse is still listed as the beneficiary and you have a child/children, your child/children may be able to oppose your ex-spouse inheriting your assets, which could lead to placing your assets and funds on hold. This may result in legal estate litigation and negotiations, costing your children unnecessary legal fees and delaying their inheritance – and a lot of stress that could have been avoided. 

If You Don’t Have A Will
If you have never created an estate plan or will, you are leaving it up to the state to decide who will receive your assets. You must create a plan and get it in writing. The family law attorneys at Stolfe Zeigler New Jersey Family Law Group provide guidance to our clients on estate planning issues during their divorce or family law issues.

Estate Planning Tips if You’re Going Through Divorce in New Jersey

When you are going through a divorce, you must take the necessary steps to protect what matters and secure your future and the future of your loved ones. Here are a few tips on estate planning and divorce:

  • Revisit your estate plan as soon as possible
  • Change the executor or personal representative
  • File a Certification of Insurance Coverage to rename your beneficiary designations
  • Have your spouse sign other beneficiary designation forms related to your investment plans and retirement accounts
  • Change your will at your earliest convenience to add or change who will receive your assets

Always ask your divorce attorney what you should do regarding your will and other estate planning legal documents, and when you should do it to ensure you don’t accidentally violate any laws that could hurt your divorce or child custody negotiations.

What NOT To Do

It is a common feeling among anyone who has gone through a divorce to say that it is emotionally exhausting, overwhelming and frustrating However, it is crucial to take the step to update your estate plan. You may think you have plenty of time to get to your estate plan and continue putting it off, but the reality is that unfortunate circumstances sometimes come up in our lives when we least expect them. 

If you become seriously ill, you most likely will not want your ex-spouse from years ago to manage your assets or be in charge of your healthcare decisions. Therefore, you should not keep putting these important changes on the back burner. Once you have updated your estate plan after your divorce, you can rest assured that your loved ones and your assets are protected and that your ex-spouse will not be involved in any of your future estate plans. 

Let Us Help with Your Year End Estate Planning

We know that you are most likely going through a difficult time with your divorce, but you must consider how your estate plan reflects your marriage to your soon-to-be ex-spouse. You probably will not want them to be named as your power of attorney or beneficiary or inherit any of your assets. Our team at Stolfe Zeigler New Jersey Family Law Group is compassionate, caring and knowledgeable in assisting our clients with this process. Call us today at 732-240-9555 for a free consultation, or fill out our online contact form.