In the negatively and mess of a divorce and the joy of remarriage, estate planning can often take a back seat. But, while North Carolina law precludes an ex-spouse from inheriting from your estate, the law does not tie up all of the loose ends or create presumptions around your new marriage. Planning is key during these critical changes in your family. Here are three (3) steps you need to take right away:
1. Update Your Will
While the law treats ex-spouses as if they predeceased you for the purposes of inheritance, if you fail to change your will, your plan is relying on alternates and contingencies. Your ex was likely your primary beneficiary, primary executor, primary guardian of the children, and primary trustee of any testamentary trust that may have been formed under the will. It's best to make the changes that will have your will rely on primary choices rather than alternates. You may have also included people in your will just to appease your ex. Now that your ex is no longer in the picture, those people probably don't need to be in your plan any longer.
2. Change Insurance and Retirement Beneficiary Designations
As explained above, North Carolina law removes ex-spouses from your will, but the law does not change your beneficiary designations on your life insurance and retirement accounts. If you fail to change these important details, your ex could get a substantial benefit from your death unintentionally. Luckily, changing beneficiary designations is easier than changing a will because the form can normally be printed off the plan's website and completed. Wills, on the other hand, have to be witnessed and notarized and have a cost associated with its preparation.
3. Appoint a New Guardian
Natural parents have constitutional rights to parent their own children, so in the event you pass away while your kids are minors, your ex will be their legal guardian if he/she survives you. However, if you are the survivor, you'll need to appoint a Guardian in the event that you pass before your kids turn 18. You may want to appoint your new partner/spouse - but only if you want to.
Whenever you have a significant change in your family status, changes will likely need to be made to your estate plan. Consult an experience estate planning lawyer to develop an effective strategy for planning post-divorce.