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Why you need to update your estate plan after a divorce

After many North Dakotans go through a divorce, they feel like they never want to look at another legal document again. However, it's essential that you review and probably draw up a new will and other estate planning documents. This includes your financial power of attorney and health care proxy documents. You'll likely want to change your beneficiary designations as well.

Estate planning attorneys recommend making these changes, at least as many as you can, as soon as possible. They also recommend that each spouse retain separate attorneys to handle their revised estate plans no matter who did them originally.

When you draw up new documents, there are some things to keep in mind. The old ones will need to be destroyed. The new ones need to make reference to the fact that the previous documents have been revoked and replaced by the current ones. It's also important to make sure that any parties who are removed from or added to your will and other estate documents know of the changes and that the appropriate people have or know where to get a copy of them.

It's crucial that you update your beneficiary designations on things like bank accounts, retirement and investment accounts and insurance policies as well. These designations override what is in your will, so changing your will is not enough.

Of course, your divorce agreement may dictate the beneficiary designations of some accounts. That's why it's important to consult with both your divorce attorney and your estate planning attorney (who may be one and the same) to help prevent problems.

If you don't have a will or other estate documents, now is the time to get them. As a newly-single person, you'll want to do what you can to ensure that if you die or are no longer able to care for yourself, your wishes are known and carried out.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "After Divorce, Separate Your Estate Plans Too" Liz Moyer, Feb. 20, 2015

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Commandments of Family Law

  1. The only truth your children need to know is that you both love them unconditionally, and that this isn't their fault.
  2. Take the high road — everyone wins when you do what's best for your kids.
  3. Negotiate but don't capitulate — if you are being pushed toward something detrimental for your children, stand your ground.
  4. You can only control yourself and how you respond. Don't engage.
  5. Do set up rules and responsibilities. Kids feel better when routine is continued.
  6. You are still their parent — don't be afraid to be one.
  7. Disneyland is in California, not in your home. Don't set up unreasonable expectations.
  8. It is not their job to take care of you. Repeat that to them. Often.
  9. Yelling is for sports — not court. Good lawyers strongly advocate without being disrespectful to opposing parties.
  10. Fair is a place you go to get cheese curds. Aside from that, nothing in life is fair.

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