Divorce can be one of the most difficult experiences of a person’s life, and any divorce is likely to cause substantial effects on their life in many ways. They may need to adjust to a child custody schedule with their ex-spouse. Divorced spouses in Illinois typically establish separate living arrangements before or during divorce proceedings. Adjusting to a new living space, a new schedule, and the emotional distress of the situation all at once can be incredibly challenging. While you likely have lots of concerns in your new post-divorce life, one thing that should not go unaddressed for long is your estate plan.
Estate planning can serve various purposes, but its main goal is to provide your family with peace of mind when it comes to resolving the legal issues around your death. While many people find it uncomfortable to think about death, it is an inevitable consideration that everyone must make. Devoting time and effort to your estate plan can pay off tremendously for your loved ones in the future. However, if you are recently divorced, you need to ensure any estate plans you already have in place are adjusted to reflect your new lifestyle.
How to Create an Estate Plan
When a person dies in Illinois without any estate plan in place, their assets become “intestate,” and state law dictates how they are distributed in the probate process. Probate is notoriously tedious and time-consuming, and the purpose of your estate plan will be to minimize the time your family must spend in probate to resolve the financial issues surrounding your death. Everyone has different needs and concerns when it comes to end-of-life planning, and it’s possible to customize your estate plan in various ways.
At a minimum, an estate plan should include a last will and testament that outlines your wishes for distributing your assets to your beneficiaries. You should also take time to decide who you would like to act as your personal representative and/or executor of your estate. A durable power of attorney will endow your chosen representative with the legal power of your signature so they can make important decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so for yourself. An advanced care directive can explain to your family how you would like them to handle life support, hospice care, and other complex medical decisions if you become incapacitated and can’t convey these wishes yourself.
How Divorce Can Influence an Estate Plan
One of the most important aspects of your estate plan is the beneficiary designations you have included. You have the right to leave specific assets to specific beneficiaries and outline these wishes in your estate plan. If you were married for a long time, your ex-spouse is likely still listed as a primary beneficiary of your estate. They may also be listed as the beneficiary of other accounts, insurance policies, and investments you control.
If anything happens to you after your divorce before you have had time to change your estate plan, your ex-spouse may have a valid legal claim on some or all of your estate. It is also possible that the terms included in your existing estate plan pertain to property sold or divided in divorce proceedings, and other aspects of the plan may be moot as well. It’s vital to have an experienced estate planning lawyer review your existing plan and your divorce order. They can identify the areas of your estate plan requiring the most attention. Implementing necessary changes as soon as possible after divorce ensures your estate plan continues to serve its intended purpose of providing peace of mind to your loved ones and helping them avoid probate.
Q: Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer to Create an Estate Plan?
A: Whether you need to adjust an existing estate plan or create an entirely new plan after divorce, it is always best to have legal representation you can trust to help you navigate this process. While it is technically possible to draft your own last will and testament, ensuring its enforceability is another matter. Additionally, if you want to create a more robust estate plan, you will require the assistance of an experienced estate planning attorney.
Q: How Do I Change My Estate Plan in Illinois?
A: Depending on the type of estate plans you have already made and the changes you require, editing your existing plan to reflect your new circumstances could be relatively easy with the help of an attorney. It’s possible to adjust an estate plan with an amendment, but more extensive changes may require drawing up a whole new plan. Your attorney can advise you as to how to best proceed with changing your estate plan to reflect your post-divorce circumstances.
Q: How Soon Should I Change My Estate Plan After Divorce?
A: The purpose of an estate plan is to provide peace of mind that your family will be secure if anything were to happen to you unexpectedly. Life is entirely unpredictable, and a life-threatening or fatal incident can occur at any time without warning. The best way to minimize the impact of this type of situation on your family is to take the time to create a reliable estate plan that addresses as many eventualities as possible.
Q: Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for a Divorce in Bloomington?
A: Regardless of the scope of the estate planning issues you face after divorce, hiring legal counsel is essential for securing the most favorable terms possible for your impending divorce case. Though it may be technically possible to represent yourself in divorce, this is never a wise option, as an experienced attorney can significantly improve the outcome of your dissolution proceedings in various ways.
It’s natural to have lots of questions as you approach the end of a difficult divorce and as you begin to adjust to the next stage of your life. Estate planning may be a difficult topic to approach, but it’s always best to consider these issues as soon as possible after divorce. Contact an experienced Bloomington, IL family law attorney as soon as possible if you need professional legal guidance in sorting out your estate plan after divorce.