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Property division: Estate plan changes during a Texas divorce

Harris County couples who have been married a long time can have a lot to sort out if they divorce. The counting, valuation and separation of assets and debts takes time, even without significant spousal conflicts. The property division process can be stressful, certainly not an experience many spouses want to prolong.

Division of marital property can be made easier when parties have prenuptial or post-nuptial agreements. Spouses also may resolve property issues through divorce negotiations. When assets are in dispute, decisions about division shift to family law courts, where Texas community property laws are applied.

You can see how easy it might be for a spouse to forget secondary legal issues during the divorce process. The impact of this oversight may not be apparent to you, but it can cause financial and legal problems for loved ones after your death. Estate plans should be reviewed and modified accordingly at the time of major life events, like marriage or divorce, but many individuals simply forget to do these things.

For married individuals, estate planning documents generally are geared toward a spouse. A spouse is often given the power to make medical and financial choices for you, in the event of incapacitation. A spouse also is the likely beneficiary to a partner's insurance, retirement plan and other investments.

These are common choices for spouses, until divorce changes how they feel. Unfortunately, estate planning alterations can get put aside and be forgotten once the end of a marriage is finalized. Consequently, a former spouse could end up with your benefits or assets, due to a failure to update beneficiary names and estate planning documents.

Take steps during and after divorce to make sure all estate-related documents are directed to the right parties. Equally important is making sure your wishes are known and documents are accessible. Attorneys and financial advisers provide resources and guidance in this area.

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