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How Does Divorce Impact San Diego Estate Planning Documents?

— May 16, 2023

Divorce impacts life in many ways regarding joint properties, care for minors, insurance and retirement benefits and joint bank accounts to name a few. 

Many American couples do not think about estate planning unless they have a large estate, a family, or are concerned with aging and illness. Often after they complete this documentation, they do not think of it again until the death of one of the spouses.  When a marriage ends up in divorce, the estate plan needs to be updated because the original probably names the spouses as beneficiaries of the other which may not be the wanted outcome after a divorce.  People must update their estate plans based on current circumstances.  Divorce impacts life in many ways regarding joint properties, care for minors, insurance and retirement benefits and joint bank accounts to name a few.  California estate planning lawyers can assist with the drafting updated relevant documents and provide guidance for individuals as they prepare estate plans to reflect divorce changes.   

Estate plan

The areas that may need updating include: 

  • a last will and testament, with guardianship if there are minor children – this may have changed based on custody of children after a divorce.
  • an advance healthcare directive – a divorced spouse may not want their ex to oversee their end-of-life care.  
  • a durable power of attorney – divorced couples may not trust the ex to handle their affairs.

Purpose of a will

A Last Will and Testament is important for the purposes of explaining where and how an individual would like their assets divided, debts resolved and end of life issues outlined because they are very personal matters. Experienced San Diego estate planning lawyers guide clients to make sure a will contains the legally necessary language so a person’s wishes can be honored at the time of their death according to California and federal laws. Wills must be prepared properly, signed, witnessed, and notarized according to California law. Estate planning documents should be reviewed periodically to address any changes in state and federal laws, and updates to individuals named in the documents, accounting for death or estrangement.   

End of life care

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Divorce would impact the responsibilities outlined in a Living Will which addresses common end-of-life care decisions outlined in a living will including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, dialysis, antibiotic and antiviral therapies, comfort care and donations of organs, tissues, or whole body for scientific study. Consultation with a lawyer is important to understand the distinction between “Do not resuscitate/intubate” and a formal will. An individual does not need to have an advance directive, or living will to have do not resuscitate (DNR) and do not intubate (DNI) orders. To establish DNR or DNI orders, inform a doctor about these preferences so they can write an order and keep it as part of a medical record.  

Advance directives

Estate planning lawyers draft essential documentation, sometimes called a medical directive or advance directive, to cover an individual, or family members regarding medical power of attorney and do not resuscitate orders. Consultation with tax lawyers  is also a prudent decision so they can review estate planning documents and explain how tax burdens will be handled for divorcing spouses after the death of one of them.



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