Divorce is one legal area where the status of personal relationships may have far-reaching legal implications. Not only does a divorce mean the end of your marriage, it also means separating your finances and reviewing your estate plan, as well as your business interests. If you do not pay careful attention to these issues during the divorce process, you may create a tangled mess of your affairs rather than cleanly separate personally and legally from your spouse.

Don't underestimate just how important it is to properly finalize your divorce. A poorly-executed divorce can leave you legally tied to your former spouse for years after the marriage ends. This is especially pertinent when it comes to your will and other estate-planning documents. Many who create wills with their spouses as heirs fail to alter those wills when they divorce. If a will remains in place and is never updated after a divorce, a former spouse may remain legally in line to collect a substantial portion of the will creator's estate, even years after the divorce finalizes.

Protecting your estate after divorce

Once you get the divorce behind you, it is time to alter your will and any other estate planning documents that include your former spouse — if that is what you want to do. In some cases, divorced spouses choose to keep each other in their respective wills as beneficiaries because they share children and want to make sure that their children's needs remain met. Also, some wish to keep their former spouses in the will for other personal reasons.

However, if you do not wish to remain legally tied to your ex, be sure to carefully review your will and redistribute any assets you planned to leave him or her. Of course, it is important to wait until your divorce finalizes to address estate planning issues, since your estate is likely to change significantly after the divorce.

Altering estate planning documents before you finish the property division portion of your divorce can raise the eyebrows of the court as well as your spouse's legal counsel, who may see this as an attempt to hide assets or move them around to avoid dividing them.

New season, new plan

Once you're on your own and out of the marriage, don't put off dealing with your will. None of us are guaranteed another day, and you don't want to create frustrating or painful complications for your loved ones who may not want to reopen old wounds by involving your former spouse in distributing your estate. Use all of the resources that you have to secure your rights and make your wishes clearly understood.

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