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Planning for minor children in your estate plan after a divorce

As a parent, deciding who will care for your minor children, should something happen to you, may be a key motivating factor in creating your estate plan. Divorced parents have unique considerations in this regard. To prevent estate litigation, it is important to ensure wills and estate plans align with other agreements and laws that relate to child custody and support.

When a parent predeceases their minor children, there are two significant considerations related to the next of kin:

Guardianship

If your divorce ended on amicable terms, you may be comfortable leaving your child in the care of your ex-spouse in your estate plan. However, if you designate another guardian for your child, you need to ensure that this arrangement does not conflict with your ex-spouse’s wishes and the terms of your child custody arrangement.

Asset distribution

Another major consideration is how the money you wish to pass on to your child will be managed and distributed. You can name a trustee to hold liquid assets and determine how they will be invested until your child is old enough to obtain the money. You must also decide whether assets should be given to the beneficiary in a lump sum when they turn a certain age, or in monthly or annual instalments. You may also wish to delegate certain funds to a particular expense, such as tuition. All of these decisions must be carefully laid out within the trust, in a way that does not interfere with the decisions in the divorce agreement.

Your estate plan is something you should update with every major life change – and this includes divorce. It’s important to work with your estate planning lawyer to ensure that your plan suits your current circumstances and wishes – and aligns with your and your ex-spouse’s divorce agreement.

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