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After a divorce, don't forget to change your will

Any divorce can turn up unexpected complications, especially for couples who have spent a significant portion of their lives together when their marriage ends. For many people, it is not always easy to know when a divorce is finally over and done with, because the process can affect so many areas of a person's life.

One of the most important tasks that every divorcing spouse should consider is updating their will. If you recently underwent a divorce, you must take the time to protect your rights and priorities. If you do not update your will to reflect your divorce, you could cause the ones you love a great deal of heartache when the time comes to execute the will following your written wishes.

Why does divorce justify updating a will?

Divorce is not the only life event that may make it necessary to change your will, but it is one of the most common. Depending on the beneficiaries whom you name and the wishes that you outline, you may need to change your will many times throughout your life.

An outdated will may cause complications when the wishes laid out in the document do not reflect the creator's beneficiaries and estate when the will is used. If, for instance, you create your will while you were married, you almost certainly listed your spouse as one of your primary beneficiaries. Not only does this make practical sense for most people, it often makes use of some important tax advantages.

However, once your divorce occurs, you probably no longer wish to leave your former spouse as a beneficiary in your will. Some divorcing spouses choose to leave their exes in a will for the sake of their children, but even then there are ways to ensure that the child receives the benefits rather than the spouse.

Furthermore, if you choose to remarry later on, you don't want an outdated will listing your former spouse as a beneficiary and not your current spouse.

You must consider these issues any time that you gain or lose a person whom you plan to include as a beneficiary in your will. This may include children, spouses, grandchildren and many others. Each time that you bring someone into the family or see them leave, it is wise to review your will.

Protect your rights with a regular review

Often, we do not realize that our lives have taken a course well outside of what we expected, and without regular reminders to review our legal documents, it is easy to leave them gathering dust. No matter what life events do or do not occur, if you have not reviewed your will in at least four years, you should make time to do so.

This regular review of your will helps you account for changes in the law that you may not expect or do not realize have taken effect since you last created or reviewed the document. A strong, consistent legal strategy helps keep you in control of your estate and ensures that your wishes remain secure, through the difficult times and the beautiful surprises.

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