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Monday, February 25, 2019

Does divorce affect an estate plan?

If you lived in New York or New Jersey and were finally ready to have a comprehensive estate plan prepared, you’d seek out an experienced New York or New Jersey estate planning attorney

And if you were considering buying or selling real estate in New York or New Jersey, you’d likely seek counsel from a New York and New Jersey real estate attorney

Under the same logic, if you were considering getting divorced you’d see a divorce lawyer. And then you’d go back to your estate planning lawyer. 

Why? What does divorce have to do with estate planning? 
While there is plenty of estate planning advice to give, two of the most important pieces of it are the following: 

  • have an initial estate plan drawn up as soon as you turn 18. 
  • return to your estate planning attorney periodically throughout your life to modify the plan if needed as a result of important life events or tax law changes. 

With respect to the first estate plan: At that age many may still feel like a kid and may not have much in the way of wealth yet, but legally they are adults. The most important reason to see an estate planning lawyer so young might be to plan for incapacity. 

People wrongly think only elderly folks become incapacitated, but teens and people of all ages can also become incapacitated through accidents or diseases. Parents will no longer have the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of their children after they reach the age of majority unless they have been appointed by their children through a power of attorney for financial and/or medical decisions. There are other documents as well which round out the incapacity portion of the estate plan.

Estate planning is not a do-it-once-and-forget-it proposition. Relationships change and estate planning needs change with them. Birth, death, adoption, marriage, divorce, business ventures-- all of these things can dramatically impact an existing estate plan. 

One example would be the recent separation after 25 years of marriage of the Amazon CEO and his wife. He reportedly has a net worth of $137 billion and, without a prenuptial agreement it’s possible as much as half of his assets could go to his wife in a divorce. The couple has 4 children together and to their credit reportedly are “determined to remain cordial…and will share parenting”. 

But you don’t have to be the richest person in the world to have your estate plan impacted by a divorce. So regardless of your net worth, significant life changes should prompt a visit to your estate planning attorney to discuss any needed modifications. 

If you live in New York or New Jersey and need assistance with an initial estate plan or would like to modify an existing one, the attorneys at Merlino & Gonzalez can help you. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. 
With offices in Staten Island, New York, and East Brunswick, New Jersey, we represent clients in both states in all matters of trust and estate planning and administration as well as commercial and residential real estate law.


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