The process of a divorce is one of the most difficult experiences one can face in life. The emotional and financial turmoil of a divorce can take quite a toll on so many aspects of daily life that many neglect to think about possible future complications.

You may be dealing with child custody issues, questions about alimony, division of property—all extremely important factors to settle during a divorce. But, don’t forget to address something that could seriously affect your family: Your will. If you don’t update this document before your divorce, at your death, your assets could be distributed in ways you neither expect or want—including to your ex-spouse.

The three big reasons to update your will before divorce are:

  • To avoid your soon-to-be-ex inheriting your assets;
  • To appoint someone to be in charge of things if you’re incapacitated (power of attorney) and ensure your dying wishes are taken care of (an executor); and
  • To make things easier for your heirs.

Like it or not, death is part of life, so we should all be able to talk about it and prepare for it. You’ll want to have everything in order—especially during a volatile time such as divorce. With just one or two appointments with an attorney, you’ll plan out your wishes and instructions and feel much better about the future. In fact, dealing with your will be relatively painless.

Decisions, Decisions

Your attorney will have specific questions for you, so it might be best to decide a few things before your first appointment. Probably the biggest question to address is who will be your executor? This person will be responsible for taking care of assets and make sure your wishes are carried out after your death.

Your soon-to-be-ex spouse is more than likely your current executor, but that obviously needs to change. A sibling is a good choice if you have one, if you don’t, perhaps a best friend. If they’re in good health, an aunt or an uncle might be a good fit. The one rule here is that it should be someone you absolutely trust.

The next big decision is who will receive your money and other assets. If you have children, they will automatically inherit these items. If your children are under 21 years of age, you might want to determine at what age they should take possession of those assets. Also decide whether or not they should receive everything all at once or if you’d like to see them given installments for several years.

Lastly, the issue of life support should be addressed. Do you want to remain on life support if something awful happens or would you rather be disconnected? These wishes should be made very clear in your will as the person given power of attorney will carry out these wishes or make other health decisions on your behalf when needed. Your power of attorney could be the same as your executor, but it doesn’t have to be.

Be sure to also include details about the type of funeral service you’d like. Specifics can include your choice of cremation or burial, location of burial, funeral location, and the music played. Making such decisions now will save your family a lot of worry and guesswork.

Taking Care of Those You Love

The main takeaway here is that you don’t want the wrong people to benefit from your death. Divorce can put you on the path to this scenario, but if you plan accordingly, you can ensure the ones you love are well taken care of and get what is deserved.

Take the time to meet with an estate planning attorney, in addition to a divorce attorney, before ultimately filing for divorce. It’s important for you to understand exactly how the divorce proceedings will affect you and/or your children, especially if you become incapacitated or pass away suddenly during the process.

Death is a fact of life, so why not talk about it and prepare for it? You’ll want to have your “ducks in a row” especially during a volatile time such as divorce. There’s enough to worry about without adding this to the list. You’ll feel much better once it’s dealt with. Just one or two appointments with an experienced attorney should get the job done. Most dread thinking about a will, but the process is actually pretty painless and definitely worth the time.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact Oliver & Cheek, PLLC by calling (252) 633-1930 or visiting

(Sources: North Carolina General Assembly; North Carolina Wills and Trusts; Forbes Magazine; Life After Divorce by Dr. Karen Finn; Huffington Post; and LGBT Family Law.)