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James A. Jones, Attorney At Law
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Making estate planning changes after a divorce

Should Washington couples remain married long enough, it's not unusual for them to do some type of mutual estate planning. However, when a major life event like a divorce occurs, it's typically advised that newly single adults review their estate plans, especially if an ex is the main beneficiary or selected executor. In some states, exes are automatically removed from a will following a divorce. Even when this is the case, there are still other adjustments that may need to be made.

The extent of post-divorce changes that may need to be made will depend on what type of estate planning occurred during a marriage. For instance, an ex-spouse might be named as a personal representative. There are also situations when an ex's family members may be listed as guardian choices if a marriage produced children or successor personal representatives. If it's no longer desired to have former in-laws included, estate documents will need to be changed to reflect this.

In addition to removing an ex from a will after a divorce, it's also recommended that beneficiary designations on life insurance policies be reviewed, especially since not all documents of this nature have language specific to separation or divorce from a beneficiary. Also, updating power of attorney and health care representative designations after a marriage ends may prevent issues with medical personnel trying to figure out who they are legally able to contact or share information with in the event of a health-related emergency.

If extensive estate planning occurred during a marriage, it may be best for a newly single adult to consult with an attorney to determine the most appropriate and effective way to make changes to trusts, wills, beneficiary designations and any other estate documents that may be on file. A lawyer can also provide assistance if there are certain limitations dictated by the divorce decree that could complicate matters.

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