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Preparing for the day after divorce

The issuance of a final divorce decree resolving issues, such as property division and child support, does not put an end to all of the matters that have to be decided at the end of a marriage. Many financial and legal issues may remain unresolved or develop unless there is preparation for post-divorce life. Failure to address these issues can cause unwanneted consequences under Texas law.

Ending a marriage requires changes to estate planning, insurance policies and retirement documents. These issues should be reviewed and possibly changed. Trusts, wills, life insurance policies and pension and retirement accounts should be examined.

Neglecting this review may be risky and violate a spouse' intentions. A former spouse, instead of the children, may collect the proceeds of a life insurance policy, if that spouse is not removed as the policy's beneficiary. The children may be precluded from receiving these funds, although the estate documents designate them as the policy's beneficiary.

A valid will may also assist with estate planning. Without a will, a spouse is not a legal heir to their former spouse's estate. However, divorce may be the time to review who is to receive property following a spouse's death.

In addition, a spouse may consider revising powers of attorney documents that delegate important powers to another person to make significant decisions on property, healthcare and other matters that require trust and judgment. Divorce may be the time to remove a former spouse from this role.

Any changes to these and other documents, however, cannot violate the legally-binding terms of the divorce decree and court judgment. For example, a spouse should not change the beneficiary of a life insurance policy if the decree stipulates that the former spouse stays as its beneficiary. If this occurs, the policy holder will leave a legal morass to their children or other beneficiaries after their death if the policy violates the decree.

An attorney can assist with this planning. Legal advice may also help assure that other divorce legal issues are fairly resolved and that the decree helps meet financial and personal needs.

Source: Forbes, "The first thing you must do when your divorce is final," Mark Eghrari, Aug. 14, 2016

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