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When divorce means a change in the estate plan

People in New York who are going through a divorce may also want to make sure that they change their estate plan if necessary. If they do not, ex-spouses may inherit assets they were not intended to have.

For example, one man had a significant amount of money he received in a settlement from an accident. He and his wife signed a prenuptial agreement that stated the money would remain his. However, the man later added his wife as an 80 percent beneficiary on the trust where he had placed the money. His family was a 20 percent beneficiary. His wife later filed for divorce. The man needed to inform his lawyer and sign an amendment to the trust to change it, but he did not do so. He died two days before the finalized divorce decree, so his ex-wife got more than $14 million while his family only received around $3.6 million.

In another case, a man died on his honeymoon with his second wife. In his divorce, he and his former wife had agreed on an arrangement for dividing the retirement plan. However, he had still not signed the paperwork at the time of his death. As a result, it was necessary to prepare and file different orders.

People who are going through a divorce might want to talk to an attorney about what kinds of changes to the estate plan are legal during the divorce process. Some changes may need to wait until the divorce is finalized. People should also make sure they change their beneficiary designations for retirement accounts, life insurance and similar assets after a divorce if necessary. There are other changes in life that may also result in the need to change an estate plan such as births, marriages and deaths in the family.

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