Estate planning after divorce is an important task you don’t want to ignore. You might not realize that if you had a will during your marriage, it won’t automatically become invalid now that you’ve separated and divorced. That means you likely need to make some changes. If you have divorced and don’t have a will, now is a good time to get one in place. Use the following checklist to get organized before finalizing your plans with your lawyer.
Choose an Executor
The executor of your will is the person who will be in charge of collecting the assets of your estate, sorting out and dealing with debts and taxes, and distributing funds according to your wishes.
Many married people identify their spouse as their estate executor, so you will want to change that if this is the case. Your executor should be someone you believe is capable and that you can trust with this important task. It’s also a good idea to choose a back-up executor in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to carry out the role.
Change your Beneficiaries
You likely don’t want your former spouse to be the beneficiary of your estate in the event of your death. You may have also identified other extended family members such as nieces, nephews, or siblings on your former spouse’s side that you also want to remove as beneficiaries.
If you have life insurance in place, make sure you change the beneficiary on your policy as well. This also applies to any retirement investment funds you hold.
If you have children, you might choose to leave your estate to them. In the case of children who are minors, they will not receive any money in your estate until they reach the age of majority (18 in Manitoba). You can indicate that your children must be older to receive the funds if you prefer. Many parents choose the age of 21, 25, or 30, but any age is an option. Before your children are eligible to receive the funds, either your executor or a trustee that you name is responsible for managing these assets.
Parents with underage children often name someone to be the guardian of their children in their will in case they and their ex-spouse both pass away before their children reach the age of majority. These clauses are not legally binding, but help to provide insight into the parents’ wishes.
Another optional clause you can include in your will is an amount or percentage of your assets you would like to bequest to a charity.
There are many other considerations when planning a will that individual circumstances can influence. Decisions about estate planning can be complicated, so it’s always a good idea to discuss your options with your lawyer, who can assist you in your estate planning.
By Kelly Riediger
If you have questions about estate planning or collaborative law, contact me at (204) 992-3249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.