Divorce means a lot of changes in one’s life, whether desired or not: shifting from shared income to a single (or non-existent) income; dividing up property between the divorcing spouses; perhaps moving to a new home or even a new city; potential changes in relationships with your children; and the emotional reality of living apart from a spouse.
While updating your estate planning may not be the first thing that comes to mind in a divorce, it is a necessary aspect of planning for the future and your loved ones, and there are several reasons why a divorce in California will necessitate such estate planning updating.
Community Property and Your California Estate
If you’re not yet familiar with the concept of community property in your own California divorce, you soon will be. In California, all property that either spouse earns during the marriage or acquires with earning during the marriage is considered community property, regardless of who earned the money (absent a prenuptial agreement to the contrary). In the divorce, this property is divided 50/50 between the parties.
Why this is important for your estate planning is that, during the time that you are still married (prior to the divorce), your spouse will receive ALL of the community property you shared, even if you directed that some of that property go elsewhere in your will. This changes once the divorce becomes final, as your divided property will each become your own separately, and you can gift it as you’d like in the will.
Changing Beneficiaries After Your Divorce
In most cases, a divorced person will want to rewrite their will to reflect different beneficiaries. While you are free to make gifts in your will to your ex-spouse, most people choose to benefit other family members instead after a will.
Similarly, you may want to remove beneficiaries connected with your ex-spouse while seeking to benefit others who have come along in your life since you originally created the will.
Updating Your Will to Reflect Your Current Property After Your Divorce
In addition, the property that will actually make up your estate post-divorce no doubt looks a lot different than what you had during the marriage. Clearly, you do not want to gift property that now sits with your ex-spouse, as you have no ability to control that property.
At the same time, while you may not have had the ability or decision-making power to unilaterally gift property in a certain way due to shared ownership with your ex-spouse or simply based on his or her wishes, you now have absolute control over your own property to gift as you wish.
You have likely also acquired new or different assets over the years which you will want to include in your will, and perhaps even your values have changed with regard to the people and organizations you would like to benefit in your estate planning and through what types of estate planning strategies and instruments.
Update Your Estate Planning With a Pasadena Estate Planning Attorney
Estate planning and probate attorney Christopher B. Johnson, located in Pasadena, California, has years of experience in all aspects of estate planning, and works with clients from all walks of life to create estate planning tools that reflect their needs and those of their beneficiaries. To request an immediate consultation, contact him today at (877) 755-9178.