If you're in the midst of divorcing or finalizing a divorce in Massachusetts, it's important to begin looking ahead and making plans for what happens after the dust settles. One of those things that you need to consider is what changes may need to be made to your estate plan given your recent divorce. Most experts say that estate plans need to be changed when major life events occur, divorce being chief among them. If you find yourself facing estate planning after divorce, consider the following questions:
Does your plan ensure that assets will pass to the right people?
When a person is married, there usually isn't much concern that assets will eventually pass to your children. After all, the surviving spouse is almost always recipient who inherits these assets or the beneficiary on life insurance policies, and he or she will hopefully pass the money along to your children at some point in the future. However, this may not be the case in the event of a divorce.
You should always be sure to review and probably change your insurance and retirement account beneficiary designations. This guarantees that the money you leave behind won't be given to your former spouse and can instead be given to your children or whomever else you designate. The children may be too young to receive the money in the event you die at a young age, which is why you may want to consider establishing a trust in their name as an estate-planning device.
Who gets custody of the kids?
If one parent dies after a divorce, it is often the case the other parent receives full custody, something that may make sense in many cases. However, if you believe that your spouse is unfit or that there are legitimate reasons that he or she should be denied custody or visitation, you should take the necessary steps while you are alive to minimize the chance of this taking place.
You should include in your estate plan a designation of a guardian for your children. It's important to note that this designation is not binding on the court, as the court will still consider the best interests of the children, but it can carry weight with the judge and it's the best way to let the Probate and Family Court know what your desires are in this area.
What if you remarry?
Remarriage presents other possible areas of concern with regard to an estate plan, as your new spouse may stand to inherit everything, maybe even to the exclusion of the children from your first marriage. Many parents are interested in ensuring that their children from the first marriage receive a share of inheritance, which may require them to take certain legal steps to guarantee that takes place, such as creating a trust fund for the kids or crafting a premarital document specifically excluding certain assets from your new spouse.