Law Office of Amy B. Van Fossen, P.A. - Elder Law

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Major life changes: Review estate plans

It is important for Florida residents to review and modify their estate plans when they decide to get divorced. If they forget to do so and die before their divorces are final, they may then accidentally leave their estates to their estranged spouses instead of their intended beneficiaries.

One example that illustrates the importance of making changes to estate plans when the divorces are filed involves a man who received a multi-million dollar personal injury settlement when he was single. When he later decided to get married, he and his fiance signed a prenuptial agreement that said the money would remain as his separate property. The man then placed the settlement in a trust that named him and his family as the beneficiaries.

Later, the man added his wife as an 80 percent beneficiary of the trust and his family as 20 percent beneficiaries. The trust document specified that if the couple was still married on the date of the husband’s death, she would receive her full share. He and his wife eventually filed for divorce, and he did not make changes to his estate plan. Two days before the divorce was finalized, the man suddenly died. Because he was still technically married on the date of his death, his ex-wife received 80 percent of his trust while his family received just 20 percent.

People who have estate plans sometimes view them as complete and fail to review them. It is important for people to regularly review their estate plans so that they can make changes when it is necessary. All major life changes, including getting married, getting divorced, having children and getting remarried, should prompt a review. An estate planning lawyer can help to make the necessary changes to the documents so that they reflect the client’s changing family situation.