Ten Tips Divorce Lawyers Should Consider About Estate Planning

Peter M. Walzer, Esq.-Certified Family Law Specialist

1. Revoke non probate transfers such as revocable trusts if permitted by state law.
2. Advise your client to revoke their current will and draft a new one. Usually this is temporary until they can fund a trust.
3. Advise your client that they can eliminate right of survivorship to real property if permitted by state law.
4. Make sure that your client and/or the children remain the beneficiary on life insurance policies. The policies must be maintained during the divorce and afterward. Serve notice on the insurance companies advising that the beneficiaries must be maintained, and request notice of any change or lapse in policies. Make sure spousal and child support are secured by life insurance policies as provided by the law of your state.
5. If parties or witnesses may not be available at the time of trial because of incapacity or death, preserve their testimony by taking their deposition.
6. In some states, the family court will maintain jurisdiction after the death of a party – if certain procedures are followed (bifurcating the status of the marriage in California).
7. In the event of the client’s death, typically the other parent will be appointed guardian of the children. It is prudent to appoint an alternate guardian in the event the other parent is incapable of serving.
8. Review estate planning documents to determine if separate property was transmuted to marital property or community property.
9. Preserve survivorship benefits relating to retirement accounts by locking them down in QDRO’s and DRO’s.
10. Review premarital and postmarital agreements to determine if these documents are contracts to make a will.


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