When you are going through a divorce, thinking about estate planning is not something that would occur to most people. However, it is something that you should consider because the divorce process can take several months or more. During that time, if anything should happen to you, your existing estate planning documents would be in effect and the spouse you are in the process of divorcing would be in control of your assets and also you, if you were incapacitated. Or if you did not have estate planning documents in place, Georgia law would treat the spouse you are in the process of divorcing just as if you were happily married to each other. In other words, your soon-to-be ex-spouse (and your children) would inherit your assets and your ex-spouse would make any health care decisions on your behalf. Until the divorce has been finalized or you have updated your estate plan, your ex-spouse will still be in the picture.
Another area for concern is if you and your spouse are co-trustees for a trust or other account. Again, if you become incapacitated, the spouse could access and use all kinds of property you would not want him or her to have access to. This could be a big problem when you realize this person could actually buy or sell property or even take out loans without your consent.
And, if you have inherited or stand to inherit from your parents, another potential problem arises. Should you pass away before the divorce is final, your inheritance may legally pass directly to the person you were in the process of trying to get out of your life. Even if you have assets that would be passed directly to your minor children, without a proper estate plan in place, the courts will likely put your ex in charge of any money or other property that you leave them. In order to protect your interests during a divorce, it makes good sense to talk with your estate planning attorney.
Once a divorce is final, there will probably be some accounts and situations in which ex-spouses are no longer beneficiaries, but there are others where you will need to make deliberate changes. An estate planning attorney who is familiar with the laws specific to Georgia is the best option for ensuring that you are protecting yourself both during and after dissolution of marriage.