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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 The new ones need to make reference to the fact that the previous documents have been revoked and replaced by the current ones.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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