Now that your divorce has been filed, it may be tempting to take a breather and not think about all of this for awhile. After all, you’re likely in the biggest emotional whirlwind of your entire life. But it’s important that you press on and make sure critical matters are taken care of and loose ends are tied up so you can put this all behind you soon.
If you were aware of the divorce filing before it happened, hopefully you’ve already taken care of basic estate planning adjustments including:
- Will amendments
- Beneficiary matters
- Powers of attorney
- Life insurance changes
If not, don’t panic. You’ll want to address these items sooner rather than later, but there’s still time. But keep in mind that getting divorced doesn’t automatically revoke wills or other legal arrangements. Documents need to be updated by you, usually with the help of an experienced estate planning and/or family law attorney.
Unfortunately, many people find themselves caught off guard by a spouse who files for divorce unexpectedly. Anger, sadness, and even shock can make it hard to move forward. But the sooner you take care of the necessary details, the sooner you can move on with your life. The first step forward should be for you to hire a reputable attorney who can walk by your side and untangle the legal side of things for you. You should not have to face this mess alone.
The legal process of divorce varies from one jurisdiction to the next, and there are different schools of thought on what a spouse can and can’t do during a pending divorce. In many jurisdictions, the court will issue a restraining order when a spouse files for divorce. Now this isn’t your stereotypical restraining order, which is a legal protective order to keep one party away from another in proximity. That type of restraining order tends to arise in cases of domestic abuse. The more common restraining order during a divorce focuses on keeping parties from dissipating (wasting, misusing, or mishandling) assets while a divorce is pending. An attorney can walk you through the ins and outs of navigating a restraining order like this, but in general, here are some activities to avoid while your divorce is pending:
- Charging unusually high amounts on joint credit cards
- Selling collectibles or other high value items
- Donating or giving away expensive assets
- Spending excessively (e.g. new vehicles or lavish vacations)
Not only should your attorney help you navigate the grind of endless paperwork and nitty gritty details, but they can also walk you through scenarios that might not occur to you like this one:
Spouse #1 has $750,000 of assets and a $500,000 life insurance policy. Divorce is filed and Spouse #1 makes no estate planning changes or life insurance beneficiary adjustments. Spouse #1’s current will leaves everything to Spouse #2 and the soon-to-be ex is also named as the life insurance beneficiary. Then the unexpected strikes, and Spouse #1 dies while the divorce is still pending. Under Indiana law, Spouse #2 may automatically inherit all $1.25 million if the will and life insurance updates have not been made, and technically the couple was still married.
This may sound like an unlikely scenario, but it’s certainly not one any of us should have to face. And no matter what’s going on in your life right now, you’re undoubtedly in the midst of an intensely stressful time. If you need us, we’re here for you. Don’t hesitate to reach out at 765.742.9066 or email:
Stuart Boehning, Estate Planning, firstname.lastname@example.org
Kisti Good Risse, Family Law, email@example.com
Abigayle Hensley, Family Law, firstname.lastname@example.org
Missed our first post in this series? Read Protecting Your Assets: Pre-Divorce Estate Planning.
The content of this blog is intended to be general and informational in nature. It is advertising material and is not intended to be, nor is it, legal advice to or for any particular person, case, or circumstance. Each situation is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have any questions about your situation.