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Revising an estate plan during a divorce

When people in New York experience a major life change, such as a divorce, it might be necessary to also make changes to their estate plan. Some changes may be made during the divorce. For example, if the spouse has been chosen to make healthcare decision if the person is incapacitated, an individual may want to choose someone else for this role. The person may also want to consider whether the financial power of attorney should be changed. A spouse who is named in this document will be able to control all the person's assets in the event of incapacity.

It is important to understand what can and cannot be altered during a divorce. For example, it might not be possible to alter a document such as a beneficiary designation until after the divorce is final. Wills and trusts might need to be changed if the person is able to do so. A person might not be able to entirely leave a soon-to-be divorced spouse out of a will, but some leave only the minimum required by the state. Changes to the trust may include removing gifts to the spouse's family members.

A revised estate plan may need to be compared against a pre- or postnuptial agreement to ensure that they are consistent. After the divorce, another revision to the estate plan may be necessary.

It is best to avoid thinking of an estate plan as a static set of documents. Throughout a person's life, as there are changes such as births and marriages as well as changes in assets and tax laws, it may need to be revised. A person might also need to revise an estate plan after moving to another state. An attorney may be able to assist a person in these revisions and help ensure that documents are prepared accurately.

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