In this second post of the blog series on estate planning during or after a divorce proceeding, we cover the first of the four issues that we believe must be addressed to ensure proper planning is done, namely, to update your Will, or to create a Will if you have not done so already.
If you executed a Will (often called a Last Will and Testament) while you were married, or in contemplation of that marriage, your Will likely named your spouse as an executor for your estate, and probably also then left him or her with all of your assets upon your death, or at least a large chunk of those assets. Such an arrangement is very common for couples that are married. But, if you have divorced (or are divorcing), your thoughts and wishes for who you want to handle your estate when you die, and who you want to receive your assets, has probably changed – either a lot or at least a little. So, to address those changes, it is time to update your Will by preparing a new one.
Georgia law recognizes that a person who gets divorced likely wants his or her ex-spouse less involved in their life, as well as in their estate, should the person die. In fact, the law says that if you do not update your Will that was executed before a final divorce decree or an annulment, then after a divorce or annulment the law will treat it as if your former spouse predeceased you (meaning that the provisions in the Will relating to your former spouse have been stricken out of the Will). See O.C.G.A. 53-4-49. While this law makes sense, the law cannot accurately guess what other changes you want for your plans. So, it is up to you to revise your Will accordingly,
To that end, important items to consider include the following:
1. Who should serve as your executor, and as a back-up executor?
2. If you have minor-aged children or young adults, what would you want to happen to assets left for them? Who would be appropriate as a trustee to manage and distribute those assets in accordance with your wishes? Hint – the answer may be someone other than your ex-spouse.
3. In light of the divorce, who should care for minor-aged children in the event they need a guardian appointed by the court, assuming that both you and your ex-spouse had deceased?
4. What other changes to your plan for distributing your assets at your death are appropriate in light of your changed situation?
And, don't forget the other items that we'll cover in later blog posts relating to advance directives for healthcare, a durable power of attorney, and the very important beneficiary designations for non-probate assets.
If you'd like FREE information (seriously, it's free, with no strings attached) about estate planning in Georgia, contact our office and request it. And, if you are divorcing or have been recently divorced, let us know so we can include some additional information that we believe will be very relevant for you. For your free information, contact The Beck Law Firm, LLC at 678-344-5342.