Estate Planning After a Major Life Event

With proper estate planning, you can protect your assets and provide for your family in the future. Many people find it difficult to go through the process of planning for the eventual day when we will no longer be around. However, taking the time to make an estate plan can avoid tax penalties, ensure your assets will be used as you see fit, and provide for those friends and family who you hold most dear. 

When major life events occur, it is a good time to review your estate plan and make updates or changes. Life events like a divorce, marriage, birth of a child, or death of a family member may be a reason to make changes to your estate plan to stay current with your plans and wishes. 

Talk to your North Carolina family law attorney about upcoming events in your life and how they may affect your estate planning. 

Major Life Events That May Affect Your Will or Trust 

Any major life event that brings new people into your life or separates you from others may be a reason to change your estate plans. Examples of major life events for individuals and families in North Carolina may include: 

  • Birth of a child
  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Separation
  • Re-marriage
  • Moving out-of-state or out of the country
  • Death of a family member
  • Serious illness or injury
  • Adoption
  • Significant change in wealth or assets

Marriage and Remarriage

State laws generally provide for how marital property is treated after one spouse dies. The marital property generally goes to the surviving spouse. However, there may be separate property or other non-shared assets that the spouse should designate as to what will happen to the property upon divorce. 

Divorce or Separation

Divorce and legal separation can also affect estate planning. The property and assets of the marriage are generally equally divided in a divorce. This may significantly change the amount of assets one spouse has after a divorce and such a dramatic change may alter the way that the individual wants to allocate the property in the future. Additionally, a will or trust that includes the previous spouse's name could still be valid unless the will or trust is changed to remove the former spouse. 

Death of a Loved One

The death of a loved one is a difficult time and the last thing grieving relatives want to think about is making changes to their will or estate plans. Plans to leave assets to a loved one who passed away may end up resulting in those assets going to their children, designated beneficiaries, or under state intestacy laws. 

A death of a close family member who did not have a will or other estate plan also shows relatives the problems associated with dying intestate or without a will. When someone without a will dies, the state governs what will happen to that person's property. Intestate succession may not recognize relationships that have not been formalized. For example, foster children, step-children, or godchildren may not be able to inherit under North Carolina intestacy laws even if that person would likely have provided for those individuals. Similarly, an estranged relative could inherit even if that person would never have intended anything to go to that relative. 

New Children  

Your own children may be provided for under an older will or even under intestacy laws. However, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, or other close acquaintances with new children may be something you may want to provide for through providing college money, a nest egg, or even a piece of property.  

Illness or Accident

A serious illness or accident may make someone reflect on the importance of life and preparing for sudden disasters. Even with insurance, medical care is very expensive. A serious illness, injury accident, or surgical complication can result in needing medical care for the rest of one's life. Individuals changing their estate plan may want to set up a trust or help provide care in the future. If the person with an estate plan or his or her spouse gets ill, then one or both may want to start a living will or advance healthcare directive to care for someone who is no longer able to communicate their own medical wishes. 

North Carolina Family Lawyers in Shelby

There are a number of happy and sad events in a person's life that may change how they will prepare for the future. Marriage, birth of a child, or a divorce provide a reason to create an estate plan or make changes to an existing estate plan. If you have any questions about how a divorce or separation may impact your estate plans for the future, the skilled attorneys at Caulder & Valentine are here to help. Contact us today for a consultation.