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Updating your will after a divorce is smart planning

Have you ever heard a friend or family member’s divorce horror story? I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. This person will tell you in no uncertain or unspecific terms just how bad their experience was with a divorce. Something went totally wrong and they lost their house, children, vehicle or something in between. After that they’ve been forever scarred by the experience and are now intent on telling every person they know about the terrible outcome. Timing does not matter to this person. You could have been going through your own divorce and this person wouldn’t have hesitated for a second to tell you just how bad things were for them and how bad they could be for you.

Most divorces, thankfully, don’t live up to the horror stories that we hear sometimes from those well-meaning but misguided friends and relatives. The fact is that most people do not enter into a divorce seeking to take their spouse for all they’re worth or to rip their children from their spouse. Most folks want a fair outcome the allows them to close out one chapter in their lives and move on to another.

That’s not to say, however, that your divorce will be pain or drama free. That’s also not to say that there are not divorces where things go haywire at certain points of the case. In fact, I can point to one issue that can come up at the very end of your divorce that can cause a great deal of grief for you. I’m talking about not updating your will after your divorce has been completed.

Today’s blog from the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, we will discuss the topic of how and why to update your will at the conclusion of your divorce. Of all the things to be anxious about in terms of a divorce case, I think this one ranks pretty highly on the list. Seeing as how it is a topic that we do not discuss around here I wanted to fix that right away.

Of all the concerns associated with a divorce, planning your estate may not rank that highly…

…but it should. Undoubtedly there are a ton of issues associated with a divorce case that could motivate you to take action and do something about them. Saving money for your post-divorce life, doing what you can to build a stronger relationship with your children or even do some thinking about what direction you want your life to take after the divorce. This is on top of the planning that goes into your divorce itself.

Notice that I did not include estate planning on that list. I can’t think of a more dry topic than estate planning when it comes to the law. True, it is an essential part of any responsible adult’s life. Being in a position to be able to take care of yourself and your family in your golden years is a privilege that those who put some thought into their lives can achieve. But, still- it is not excited and probably doesn’t seem incredibly important when your family structure is undergoing a major overhaul.

With all of that said, you should take the time and effort to update your will after you have gotten a divorce. Note- if you do not have a will you need to create one after your divorce without exception. Even if you have little or no money you need a will. Your family will thank you. If you fail to update your will when you die (and the last time I checked, every one of us will eventually pass on from this life) your assets can be split between people in ways that you would not prefer. This is especially the case when one of those people is your ex-spouse.

Take these steps to update your life and prepare yourself for your golden years

There is no doubt that as you get older, peace of mind is a characteristic that most of us would pay money to have. Peace of mind comes from knowing that you have done whatever you can to benefit your family and yourself to the highest degree possible. Taking some basic steps to update your will immediately after your divorce can go a long way towards providing you with that peace of mind.

Here are two tips that I would tell any client of ours to undertake in relation to their will in a post-divorce setting:

  1. Update who is designated as a beneficiary under documents outside your will. You may be scratching your head at this point and thinking to yourself, “Did this lawyer just spend a million words telling me about how to update my will and then once he gets to the advice section he talks about something else?” Well, I suppose that’s exactly what I’m doing. The fact is that many assets that could be relevant in your life will pass outside of a will to beneficiaries that are named in bank or insurance company paperwork.

Specifically, I have retirement accounts like 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA) in mind. In order to name a new person that you want to be able to inherit these assets whenever you pass away you will need to contact your bank or insurance company. Many retirement accounts are governed by federal laws that mandate that the person running your retirement plan, usually called a plan administrator, must pay money in your account to the named beneficiary upon your death.

Don’t allow your ex-spouse to inherit money from you or receive life insurance proceeds when you die unless that is what you want to happen.

  1. Don’t just update your will- start a new one. Take your old will and run it through the paper shredder as soon as your divorce has been finalized. If it is more rewarding you can burn it or physically tear it up. I don’t care what disposal method you choose- just make sure that you get rid of all old copies of your will.

As long as we’re here we may as well note that a will’s purpose is to name a person (called an executor) who will handle any matters associated with your estate when you pass away. A will also designates where and to whom certain pieces of property will end up at the time of your death. Naming new beneficiaries is a good plan for your new will.

Creating a new will allows you to check that box and move on

Your life after your divorce will involve you running around a little bit in the immediate time period after your case concludes. You may be looking for a new place to live, figuring out how to plan for the arrival of your children in your new home and doing normal paperwork activities like filing documents you had pulled for your attorney. Again, this is not fun and may not impact your life one bit for a long time. However, it is responsible and necessary and I suggest you do all of these activities.

Updating your will should be a part of this post-divorce checklist that many people seem to have in their minds. If you are motivated, consider creating Powers of Attorney documents that give relatives or friends the authority to make decisions, typically financial and medical, for you if you become incapacitated or otherwise able to make those decisions independently of others. Just like with a will- if you have old documents you should tear those up and create new ones now that your divorce is finalized.

Questions about divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

If you have any questions about divorce in Texas please consider contacting the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We represent clients from all across southeast Texas and we would be honored to provide the same service to you and your family. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations in our office six days a week. We will take the time to answer your questions and address any concerns that you may have.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. Texas Divorce and Child Support - Life Insurance Obligations
  2. The Basics Of A Will
  3. Why You Should Have a Will
  4. Texas Child Support Appeals
  5. In Texas are Child Support and Visitation Connected?
  6. Why Ignoring Child Support Obligations is a Bad Idea in Texas
  7. Texas Child Support – Trust and Annuities
  8. Special Needs Children in Texas Child Support Cases
  9. How to get above guideline child support.

Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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