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Divorce and Estate Planning

A divorce has a profound effect on a couple's estate plan in Kentucky law. While there is no legal effect up until the entry of a decree of dissolution, once that decree is entered, any disbursements or powers granted to the other party to the dissolution by will are treated as if that party died on the date of the decree.

In my years of practice, I've seen death arise during and immediately after divorce proceedings. It is to the benefit of each divorce litigant to prepare new designations of health surrogate and powers of attorney during a dissolution (particularly in high asset divorce cases), and to prepare new wills after the conclusion of the litigation.

In preparing your new will, understand the following:

1. You generally will not be able to pass your custodial rights to minor children onto someone who is not the surviving other parent by will. Any claims that they choose to make to custody or visitation must vest from the body of child custody law. Any guardian designation you may make would only be activated in the event that the other parent predeases you or dies nearly simultaneously.

2. If you leave money or property to minors or young adults, use a trust instrument and specifically designate some capable relative or friend as the trustee. Further, leave disbursement to the discretion of that trustee up through an age of demonstrable maturity.

3. Make sure your any life insurance and investment accounts are made payable to the testamentary trust as the designated beneficiary at the time of your death.

4. Keep the will and all important documents in a safe place, out of reach of your former spouse.

By following these rules, you can ensure that your wishes are followed and your assets are preserved for your children.