Divorce and Your Estate Plan in Virginia

Divorce and moneyIt is commonly understood that when you get divorced, you need to change your estate plan. However, the timing of when that process should begin is not common knowledge.

Most married people have estate plans that leave significant portions of their estates to the surviving spouse. Thus, if you get a divorce, it is easy to see why you would need to change your estate plan. Most of the time, if you do not change your estate plan after getting a divorce, a judge will ordinarily disregard any specific bequests you made to your ex-spouse. The law assumes you would not want your estate to go to a former spouse.

However, as the Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog points out in a recent article titled When Death Occurs Mid-Divorce,the same thing is not true if you are in the divorce process but your divorce has not yet been finalized. This is a common problem when a divorce has been filed and one of the parties passes away during the process. When that happens, it can cause issues with a family home that is owned by both parties. If the home is owned as joint tenants, then the property will automatically pass to the survivor. If the divorcing couple owns the home as tenants in common, however, the deceased party’s share of the home will go to his or her heirs.

As most couples own their property as joint owners, it is important to talk to an estate planning attorney as early in the divorce process as possible. It might be in the interests of both you and your spouse to sever the joint tenancy in the home before the divorce is finalized. When getting divorced, there are many other estate planning issues you will need to consider during the process as the terms of the divorce will have a large impact on your eventual estate.

You can learn more about this topic as well as other strategies on our website under the tab entitled: estate planning in Virginia. Be sure you also sign up for our complimentary e-newsletter so that you may be informed of all the latest issues that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.

Reference:  Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (July 25, 2014) When Death Occurs Mid-Divorce

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