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The effect of divorce on estate planning

Few in Roswell may initially realize how fluid a process estate planning actually is. The common school of thought is that one creates their will and that is the end of it. Yet many things may change after one initially writes a will, some of which may influence their succession plains. One of these is divorce. Information shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that as recently as 2017, over 787,000 couples divorced in the U.S. (the actual number may indeed be higher, as five states did not furnish data for the study). As one would likely list their spouse as a beneficiary in their will, a divorce should certainly prompt them to revisit such a stipulation. 

The fear that failing to do so could result in one inadvertently leaving their ex-spouse the bulk of their estate is unfounded, however. Per Section 45-2-802 of New Mexico's Uniform Probate Code, one who has been formally divorced cannot be recognized as a surviving spouse in terms of an estate plan. The divorce effectively revokes any privileges they might have been afforded in the will, whether that be an inheritance or a power of appointment (such as being named executor of the estate). 

This does not necessarily mean, however, that those who have been divorced need not update their estate plans. The effect of revoking an ex-spouse's privileges does not also automatically bestow them on another. Also, one should consider if they actually might want to keep their ex-spouse in their estate plans. If, say, a divorced couple has young children, it might be wise for both parties to name their ex-spouse as a trustee over whatever assets they leave to the kids. Again, they would have to update their wills to include such a stipulation. 

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