So, you are in the middle of a divorce. The Decree of Divorce is near, after months of dealing with the nuances and details. Perhaps you were unfortunate enough to have to go through a Trial to accomplish your divorce. After all that, you may not be up to it, but now is the time to get your estate plan re-evaluated. If your spouse was named as the designated beneficiary on most, if not all, of your important documents (IRA and life insurance beneficiaries, to name just a couple), while you are familiar with your estate, you should get your will and/or revocable living trust established and name the actual beneficiaries you want to take in the event of your death. Now is one of the best times to get this done. In fact, while your divorce is pending, beneficiary designations on life insurance policies, and certain types of IRAs can sometimes be changed without your spouses consent. It may be as simple as contacting your bank and filling out the necessary forms.
If you do not have any existing estate planning documents, there is no better time to deal with this, since you have spent so much time combing through all of your assets. Even during the divorce process, you can take action to be sure your desires are accurately stated. What would happen if you were to die or become incapacitated while the divorce action was pending? More than likely, your spouse is going to take over control and receive the bulk of your estate. In Nevada, a party’s marital interest in an asset or debt will remain in effect until the divorce is final. Some divorce actions can take many months, if not years. Therefore, even if your case is in pending litigation, if you die while that legal action is pending, your estranged spouse would continue to have a marital interest in your assets, and would, under the law, be the natural beneficiary of your possessions, with some limitations.
Under Nevada’s intestacy statutes (the rules that govern if you do not have a will or trust), the spouse of a divorcing party with no children would be entitled to receive 100% of the deceased spouses assets. You may not have lived together or shared anything for years, but that will not have any bearing on the applicability of this rule. This is but one reason to get your will revised or drafted while you are in litigation awaiting your divorce. After the divorce is final, you have some statutory protection that would apply to bar an ex-spouse from receiving from your estate. However, it is best to take control and put your desires in place.
Don’t make the mistake that so many people make – they move on after a divorce with stale and outdated documents. We know you are emotionally spent after a divorce, but taking this time now to establish a your own will and trust will truly give you the fresh start you are seeking!