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Disinheriting an ex: Updating your will after New Jersey divorce

Estate planning tools can be a great way to help ensure your property is divided the way you want when you die. If you are married, there is a good chance that your will currently states that the majority of your property should go to your husband or spouse when you die.

That is a great plan - unless divorce is in your future. If you were recently separated or divorced, or if you are thinking about filing for divorce, you likely do not want your ex-spouse to receive all your assets. However, if you do not update your will when you separate, that is what will likely happen.

To make matters worse, if you do not update your will, you can unintentionally prevent your kids from receiving any inheritance.

If you and your spouse have talked about divorce but have not filed your papers, it may be a good idea to update your estate planning documents before you file. Many states prevent individuals from changing their estate planning documents during a divorce, but you can change them as soon as the divorce is finalized. In addition to changing your will, you should also update your other estate planning documents.

Living wills and financial powers of attorney should be amended. You likely do not want your ex-spouse making medical or financial decisions on your behalf.

In addition to updating estate planning documents, there may be other legal documents that need to be changed. If you have life insurance or a 401k, you should also update the beneficiary information as soon as possible. In many situations, the beneficiary information linked to retirement and insurance accounts supersedes the information in your will. Therefore, if your will states that your kids should receive your life insurance, but your ex-spouse is still listed as the beneficiary on the account, your ex-spouse will likely receive the funds from your life insurance.

If you are going through a divorce or were recently divorced, it may be a good idea to discuss your estate planning needs with a legal professional who has an in-depth understanding of both divorce and estate planning matters.

Source: Forbes, "Should You Disinherit Your Husband?" Jeff Landers, 26 April 2011

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