A divorce is a complex and difficult process for any couple, bringing with it emotional and financial hardships. A divorce will also likely impact an estate plan. There are many legal and financial matters to take care of after divorce, and updating your estate plan to reflect the changes in your life is important.
In Missouri, beneficiary designations to ex-spouses are automatically removed after divorce if the designation is in a revocable part of the estate plan. Because of this, some parts of your estate may no longer have any beneficiaries after divorce and could end up in probate court. Probate court proceedings are how the state identifies and divides up assets. It is long, public, and expensive, and your heirs may not get the full benefits of your estate. It’s important to review your estate plan after any major life changes to ensure that it’s up to date and still outlines your wishes. A divorce is a major life change that may alter your financial situation, beneficiary designations, and property holdings.
Irrevocable vs. Revocable Trusts
Many estate plans include a trust as one of the essential documents. A trust is useful because any assets that you include in it will be able to bypass the probate process, which is lengthy and expensive. The two main types of trusts are:
- Irrevocable Trusts: These trusts cannot be altered easily after they have been created. If the trustor, or creator of the trust, wants to alter the contents, they need the approval of the court and all beneficiaries. These trusts are useful because they allow beneficiaries to avoid certain taxes, but they are very difficult to change.
- Revocable Living Trusts: A revocable trust can be altered at any time by the trustor. To do so, though, the trustor needs to be alive and have full mental faculties.
There are benefits to creating an irrevocable trust, but the inability to alter its contents can severely impact your life if you get divorced. If your spouse is a beneficiary of an irrevocable trust, it can be difficult or impossible to alter the trust’s beneficiaries.
Changes to Make to Your St. Louis Estate Plan After Divorce
A complete and enforceable estate plan is important to complete during the finalization of and after a divorce. A divorce alters important financial information such as income, division of property, spousal support, and child support. These changes must be reflected in your estate plan in addition to naming new beneficiaries.
Ensuring that you have an estate plan in place can protect yourself, your assets, and your family. An experienced attorney can help you review the estate plan to check that all aspects unique to your estate and divorce are covered. Common updates that are necessary after a divorce include:
- Beneficiary Designations
After the finalization of your divorce, your ex-spouse is automatically removed as a beneficiary. You should review all the accounts, assets, and trusts with designations to determine if the contingent beneficiary is still the correct person you want to benefit from those items. If there was no contingent beneficiary, you should update the account, asset, or trust with a new beneficiary. Additionally, not all assets will have a spouse removed as beneficiary, so it’s important to review the entire estate plan. You want to be sure that the beneficiary designations on assets match the designation in a trust or will.
- Power of Attorney
Many estate plans include medical and durable powers of attorney, which provide another person with the authority to make medical or financial decisions for you if you are unable to. For many people, this is their spouse. After a divorce, it’s important to select a person or professional that you trust.
- Plan for Children
If you have children who are minors, there are unique things to consider. You can designate minor children as beneficiaries in your will, but only a trust will ensure that those assets are fully protected. A trust will place a trustee in control of the assets until the children are old enough if you pass when they are still minors. Without a trust, the control of those assets is likely to pass to an ex-spouse.
Q: How Do I Protect My Inheritance From Divorce in Missouri?
A: Any property or assets gained during a marriage in Missouri are considered marital property. Marital property is split during a divorce, but inheritance given to only one person is not considered marital property. One option to protect your marital asset wealth is a marital agreement. This could be a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. It can outline how assets will be distributed in a divorce and designate which assets are considered separate or marital. This can help individuals protect their wealth.
Q: Does Inheritance Get Split in a Divorce in Missouri?
A: If inheritance is given to one spouse, it is not up for division during a divorce. Only marital property is divided according to equitable distribution. Inheritance or gifts given to only one spouse are considered separate property. The court assumes that property obtained during a marriage is marital property unless proven otherwise. To show that an inheritance is separate property, documents and asset tracing are necessary evidence.
Q: How Are Assets Divided in Divorce in Missouri?
A: Missouri is an equitable distribution state. This means that all marital assets are split between spouses equitably but not automatically equally. If a couple does not decide on a fair division of assets, the court will do it based on equitable distribution. The court will review factors about the marriage, such as the financial contributions of each spouse and any conduct that impacted marital asset value. There are cases where separate assets can be turned into marital assets.
Q: What Is Spousal Abandonment in Missouri?
A: Spousal abandonment is one of several grounds for divorce in Missouri if a couple must get a fault-based divorce. Spousal abandonment is when one spouse leaves the other without consent and the following is true:
- Spouses did not agree about one spouse leaving.
- That spouse was gone for 6 months in a row.
- The spouse who didn’t leave provided financial support to their spouse.
- The spouse wasn’t the reason their spouse left.
Review Your Estate Plan
If you are finalizing a divorce in St. Louis, it’s time to start thinking about creating or updating an estate plan. Contact Stange Law Firm today, and let us help you cover all important aspects of an estate plan unique to your situation.