Divorce is so difficult that people do not want to think of death while they are going through a divorce. However, some people die during a divorce, and all people who divorce will eventually die. (See Kim’s article on Death and Divorce)
Death during divorce
If you die during a divorce, the following will happen:
- The divorce action will end
- Your spouse will inherit whatever you left your spouse in your will
- If you have no will your spouse will likely inherit all or the majority of your assets
- All jointly titled property will automatically become the property of your spouse
You can do some estate planning before or during your divorce that will limit how much of your property your spouse could receive in the event you die before the divorce is final.
Death after divorce
You should plan for yours and your ex-spouse’s death after the divorce, especially if you have children.
You should own a life insurance policy on the life of your ex-spouse for as long as: a) your children are minors; b) you are being paid maintenance; c) joint debts are still outstanding; d) your spouse owes you settlement money. You should purchase the policy before the divorce is final. The face amount should be high enough to cover your ex-spouse’s obligation to you, or to your creditors.
If your spouse dies while making support payments, you should know that the maintenance obligation will cease, but the child support obligation will not necessarily cease. A surviving parent also can ask the estate for a family allowance during the time of the administration of the estate.
After your divorce is final, remember to do the following:
- Change the beneficiaries of your life insurance
- Change the beneficiaries of your retirement/pension
- Change the POD designation on your accounts, including brokerage accounts
- Re-do your will and other estate planning