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Updating your estate plan is essential after a divorce

Once your divorce is complete, you'll probably feel like you've had enough of attorneys and legal documents to last you for a lifetime. However, there's one more very important legal matter you need to take care of -- drawing up or updating your estate plan.

If you don't already have an estate plan, don't put it off any longer. If you and your spouse had one together, one or both of you will need to get a new estate planning attorney. Even if you had your own estate plan during your marriage, there are likely elements regarding your spouse that you'll want to change.

Some attorneys recommend creating entirely new estate planning documents after a divorce. It's essential to note that the new documents revoke and replace any previous ones.

Updating your estate plan is about more than changing your will to leave your assets to someone other than you spouse. There are other important elements of a thorough estate plan that you'll likely want to amend.

Most people designate their spouse as their durable power of attorney both for financial matters and health care matters. The latter is known as a medical power of attorney in Texas.

It's also probably more important now than ever to detail your wishes regarding what type of measures, if any, you want taken to save or extend your life if you're unable to speak for yourself. Otherwise your children, parents and ex-spouse could end up battling it out over what they think you'd want.

If you and your spouse have children and you have primary custody, it's also essential to designate who gets guardianship if anything happens to you. This should also be addressed in your divorce agreement.

Don't forget about changing your beneficiaries on retirement plans, bank and investment accounts and life insurance policies. It's not enough just to designate new ones in your will. You also need to notify the companies that hold the accounts and policies and confirm that they've made your changes. Check with your Texas family law attorney to ensure that none of these changes violate the terms of your divorce agreement.

It's essential to draft or amend your estate plan as soon as possible after the divorce. Too many people put it off and then their loved ones face conflict, confusion and unnecessary legal fees at a time when they're already dealing with a tragedy or loss.

Source: MartketWatch, "Divorcing? How to make sure your ex doesn’t end up with your assets," Melissa Montgomery-Fitzsimmons, March 07, 2016

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