If you and your spouse are going through a divorce, there are important decisions that must be made. If you have a last will and testament, a divorce should prompt you to revisit this document to ensure your estate plan is updated. An experienced lawyer can assist you with this process.
Once a divorce decree is in place, your ex-spouse will have many of their rights revoked regarding your will and estate. Updating your will also allow you to appoint a guardian for your minor children if you and your ex-spouse cannot raise your children due to unforeseen circumstances. While your ex-spouse would likely raise your children in the event of your untimely death, you can appoint a guardian if your spouse is unfit.
How Do I Update My Will?
You can start from scratch and write an entirely new will. Assuming you left everything to your former spouse in your original will, this will allow you to start fresh and name new beneficiaries, as well as alternates if you outlive your first choices. You also have the option of updating your will by codicil, which is an amendment to your previous will. However, since you will likely have numerous changes to your will following your divorce, the best option may be to create a new will.
Can I Make Changes to My Will Before the Divorce Is Finalized?
You can make changes to your will at any time. While there are some changes you can make yourself, and without notifying anyone else, others may require you to notify your spouse and file the paperwork with the court before any change can be made to the will.
What Happens if I Do Not Update My Will?
If you do not update your will or create a new one that reflects your wishes, there is no guarantee that your finances will be distributed how you wish. This is true even if your divorce is amicable.
While the divorce decree automatically revokes anything you left your spouse in the original will, part of your estate could be treated like you had not made a will. In addition, if your will has not been updated, you could face other problems. You need to make other arrangements to replace your partner with a trusted friend or family member in your will.
Can My Spouse Challenge an Updated Will?
If your spouse has issues with the changes you made to your will, they can challenge the document. However, there is no guarantee that your spouse’s challenge will succeed. Ultimately, it will depend on the court’s interpretation of some factors, including what was in the divorce settlement and other legal agreements between you.
Are There Assets That Are Not Included in a Will?
Some assets are passed to beneficiaries outside of the will. When updating your will after divorce, it is important that you are aware of these assets and that you take the steps necessary to change the beneficiary designation. Make sure that you update the following documents when updating your will:
- Property held with a right of survivorship.
- Life insurance or annuity proceeds.
- Retirement accounts, including 401(k) plans or an individual retirement account (IRA).
Do I Need a Divorce Lawyer to Change My Will?
While you are not legally required to hire a divorce lawyer to change your will, it is recommended. If you handle the changes to your will on your own and you do not comply with state laws, your original will remains in effect. An experienced divorce lawyer can address your questions and concerns and assist you with every step of the process.
Freehold Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Assist Clients With Updating Their Will After a Divorce
If you are going through a divorce and have concerns about your will, contact our Freehold divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. To schedule a free consultation, call 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville, Morristown, and Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, Morris Plains, and Monmouth County.