Estate planning and divorce

Estate plans are useful in protecting assets for intended beneficiaries. Not having a well-planned estate plan in place when one gets a divorce can result in unfortunate consequences for Georgia residents who have specific ideas about what should happen to their assets.

In one situation, a man who had received a multi-million dollar payout as a result of an accident had signed a prenuptial agreement that established him as the sole owner of these funds, which was placed in a trust. After some time had passed in his marriage, the man assigned his wife 80 percent of the money. The remaining 20 percent of the trust was assigned to his other family members.

The wife filed for divorce 10 years into the marriage. The husband became ill and died two days before the divorce decree was filed with the court. As residents of Arizona, the man and woman were considered to be still married when the husband died because the decree had not yet been filed. Based on the provisions of the trust, the widow received about $14.4 million, or 80 percent of the trust, while the husband's other family members received nearly $3.6 million, or 20 percent of the trust.

If the man had updated his estate plan when the divorce was initiated, 100 percent of the trust could have been left to his family members. Because he did not advise his attorney of the changes he wanted to make and did not sign an amendment to the trust, his family received only 20 percent of the trust.

An attorney who practices estate planning law may advise clients of the best tools to use to protect their assets for their heirs and to reduce estate taxes. Assistance may be provided in drafting wills and creating trusts.

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