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Living vs. Testament

Living vs. Testament

Estate planning is most visible in people’s lives at high points and low points, from celebratory occasions like marriage, buying a home, bringing home a new child, and securing a more lucrative position at work to the struggles of death, illness, and divorce. We plan for joyful and painful changes alike.

Trusts, Wills, and Divorce: What Utah Couples Should Know

For many couples dealing with wills and divorce, Utah estate law (not to mention divorce law) is new territory. Like first-time parents, first-time divorcees are so overwhelmed with the emotional realities that the financial and legal complications can take a backseat in terms of priorities.

The intersection of wills and divorce, in Utah and other states, does not exist completely within either family law or estate law. Most likely, you will want a divorce lawyer to handle your divorce, and an estate lawyer to handle your will and any documents that name your soon-to-be-ex-spouse as the beneficiary.

Utah will and divorce checklist: Five questions to ask

  1. Have I reviewed and, where needed, changed all the beneficiary designations in my insurance policies and retirement accounts? Pension, Individual Retirement Account, 401K, etc.?
  2. Have I reviewed all my estate planning documents (wills, trusts, etc.)?
  3. Have I named short-term and long-term guardians for our children in the event that I am incapacitated or deceased? Do I need to make any changes to those selections?
  4. Have I named a trustee to ensure that everything I leave to my children goes to my children (and not, by an omission, to my ex-spouse and their future spouse and children)?
  5. Have I chosen a new person to entrust with Power of Attorney in my living will?

Wills, divorce, Utah law and timing: what you can do before, during, and after the divorce

The time at which you make these changes influences how much you can do. Divorce is not always foreseeable for both parties involved, so you may not have the opportunity to make these changes before the divorce begins.

Once a divorce is finalized, you should immediately update your Will and other estate plans if you have not already done so. In fact, in an ideal world, you should update such documents before even filing for divorce. This includes updating medical directives and a financial power of attorney.

Selecting new beneficiaries for life insurance policies and retirement accounts can also be done at this time — though some require the consent of a spouse and will have to wait until after a divorce is finalized.

So though it may be ideal to make these changes before the divorce, life does not always provide the ideal amount of time. You may want to prioritize according to which problems seem more likely to occur. For example, if you are twenty years away from retirement, changing beneficiaries on your pension and IRA may not be as important as updating your Power of Attorney—especially if your spouse currently has PoA, giving them access to all of your accounts.

Free Consultation with a Utah Estate Lawyer

If you are here, you probably need help with an estate matter. If so, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506
Ascent Law LLC

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