Estate Planning After a Divorce: Parenting Plans, Guardianships and More

As a couple with a family, hopefully, you & your spouse have at least started the process of estate planning.

If you are going through a divorce, however, these plans will probably need to change. You might even have to start over from the beginning of your estate-planning process.

You will want to readdress items that are needed; now though in reference to new parenting plans and other accommodations of the divorce.

In addition, you will need to know what is going to happen to your children should one or both of you become unable to care for them.

Here are the plans that you will need to have in place. Making these decisions in advance will help alleviate the stress that automatically comes with a divorce.

Parenting Plans After a Divorce

Custody and visitation are the most critical decisions that need to be worked out. You will need to decide whether one parent has sole custody or if it is to be shared. This includes visitation rights.

In most cases, both parents care deeply for their children and the children love both parents. Older children may even have a preference for where they want to spend the most time. Courts will consider this, especially after a child turns fourteen.

In some cases, however, one partner may not be a fit parent. Maybe they are abusing drugs or alcohol, have an untreated mental illness, or travel extensively for their career and aren’t home very often.

You will want to make sure the children are not exposed to any abuse. In cases where one parent is considered unfit, it is up to the other parent to prove this in court. 

Guardianships, Who Will Take Care of Your Child?

Guardianships can be either temporary or permanent. In the case of an illness or injury, a parent who has custody may not be able to care for the children. Typically, the courts will automatically give the guardianship to the other parent.

In cases such as those mentioned above, you will want to make sure you have provided proof of the other parent’s unfitness and named a suitable guardian who can temporarily step in until you can return to parenting. In the case of death, a permanent guardian will need to be found.

Again, the children’s other parent will be the first choice unless circumstances make that unwise. Making plans now will help prevent the children from possibly ending up in a dangerous situation or with strangers until things are sorted out.

Addressing Finances in Your Estate Plan, Post-Divorce

Child support is not the only financial consideration that needs to be taken care of after your divorce. The future holds expenses, such as for higher education, medical bills, memberships, and more. Decisions need to be made regarding who is responsible for each of these expenses.

It is also essential to decide if any financial arrangements, such as trust funds, will automatically be entrusted to guardians or if you will appoint someone solely to manage the financial well-being of your children. This can be necessary when whoever becomes physical guardian, even the child’s natural parent, is not good with money or it is felt they may not spend it appropriately.

Getting Advice on Your Estate Plan After Your Divorce

At Lilac City Law, our experienced estate law attorneys understand that parenting plans are often the most difficult ones to make during a divorce.

We are here to help you arrange the estate plans that you believe will take care of your children, not only now but also in the future.

If you are facing a divorce, and are unsure how your best-laid estate plans will be impacted, contact our office today and see how we can help ease your mind.

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How Does Divorce Impact Your Will Beneficiary Designations

Happily ever after rarely turns out how it is depicted on the big screen.

It starts great, but over time there is trouble in paradise. Despite your best efforts, it might not work out.

Divorce happens. And, if it is happening to you, you will want to know how it affects your will beneficiary designations.

Divorce and Will Beneficiary Designation

The last thing on your mind might be your death. But, your will and beneficiary designation is a serious part of your divorce. Take the time to do some proper estate planning.

Your Beneficiary Designation Comes First

You have updated your will to remove your ex. But, that is not enough. You must update the beneficiary designation, too.

Not only on your will but on all your other policies, too.

On your death, a designated beneficiary always comes first. It will not matter what your will says. Your estate will pay out to the beneficiary, even if it is your former spouse.

Check these documents to be sure your beneficiaries are up to date after divorce:

  • Will
  • Investments
  • Annuities
  • Trusts or Living Trusts
  • Life Insurance
  • Work-related Policies and Death Benefits

Remember, if you do not name anyone the state gets to decide. Take control of your assets by naming a beneficiary of your own choice.

What About the Will?

What about your will, though? Should you update it?

The answer is yes, though it is not as crucial as your beneficiary designation.

Most of the states in the US will do one of two things. If you leave your ex in your will, they will determine them to be ineffective or revoke their rights. Either way, they get no part of your assets.

Keep in mind this only applies to an ex-spouse. Not their children or any other relatives you may have named.

Do yourself a favor. Update it, anyway. It is good for your peace of mind.

Review and Update After Divorce

The only way to know for sure that your assets get divided as you want is to say so. Review and update both your will and your beneficiary designations after your divorce.

But, who should you choose?

If you have young children, you may want to consider a trust. Choose a close family member to oversee it. Your parents or siblings can be good choices.

If you have a new partner, you will need to decide if you have reached that level of commitment. Let your emotions settle, first. Use caution in designating a new partner soon after your divorce.

It is a good idea to consult an attorney if you have questions.

Take Charge of Your Assets, Today

Divorce is another stage in your life.  Do not leave the distribution of your assets to fate or the state.

Determine your own distribution of assets. Update your will beneficiary designation, today.

Need estate advice in Idaho or Washington state? Contact us, here.

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Four Benefits of Printing Out Your Guardianship Plan on Good Ol’ Paper

Four Benefits of Printing Out Your Guardianship Plan on Good Ol’ Paper

In today’s society, most things are done on the computer and saved to a hard drive.  Important documents are very rarely printed out and filed in a file cabinet or folder.  However, there are benefits to printing out legal documents including your guardianship plan.

Here are four benefits of printing out your guardianship plan on good ol’ paper.


Most people have passwords on their computers.  If you should die or become incapacitated, how will your loved ones get access to your guardianship papers if you have a password on your computer?  If they cannot figure out your password they will have to trust the judge to make a decision on who is best to care for your children.  This will make it difficult for your loved ones to ensure your wishes are being met for your family.

Even if they are able to get access to your computer, they may not be able to figure out where you saved the guardianship papers.  Everyone has a different way of filing documents on their personal computer. For example, one person might put their guardianship papers in the file titled “Important Documents” while someone else might put it in a file titled “Stuff to Keep”.

Having it already printed and labeled in a file cabinet can be the easiest way for your family to access it.  In fact, here’s what we do when we create a plan for a client!

Verbal communication

Verbal communication is not enough.  It is great that you and your spouse agreed on someone to take your children and that person agreed to step in. However, you need a legal document stating who will be the legal guardian for your children.  If you print out your guardianship papers, you can give a copy to the person who will be caring for your children and you can put one with the rest of your estate planning paperwork. Having more than one copy ensures that it will be found when needed.


Printing out your guardianship papers allows you to give them to your appointed guardian along with any other instructions you may have.  For example, you can write a letter of instruction to them.  You can explain your hopes and expectations for your children’s upbringing including education, activities, and religion.



Having your documents saved on your computer risks them being compromised by hackers. This may not happen often but you do open yourself up to the possibility if you are saving your guardianship papers on the computer. Other security threats you risk by saving your guardianship papers online are:

  • Ransomware (software designed to lock up a computer until a ransom is paid) (very rare for personal computers)
  • Theft
  • Viruses
  • Data failure (data and documents can be lost due to software or hardware failure)

Hackers are not the only ones that can change your document.  If someone really wanted to, they could log onto your computer and change your guardianship papers to benefit them.  If you have them printed out and stored safely then they are much harder to be changed.

Printing out your guardianship papers has definitive benefits that will ensure your wishes are met if you are to become incapacitated or if you die.

Talk to an Estate Planning Attorney About Family Protection and Guardianship, Today! 


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How Does A Meretricious Relationship Play Into An Estate Plan?

How Does A Meretricious Relationship Play Into An Estate Plan?

Regarding marriage, Washington state does not recognize common law. Instead, Washington State looks at a long-term, committed relationship as a meretricious relationship or cohabitation.

Being in a meretricious relationship versus being legally married can affect what happens to your property and assets should one of you become disabled or die.

What is a Meretricious relationship?

In the state of Washington, a meretricious relationship is where there is cohabitation in marital nature but not legally on paper. You might casually refer to this as “living together, but not married.” So, for example, you and your significant other have been in a relationship for the past 20 years where you live together, have joint bank accounts, and make joint decisions on all financial decisions, but you are not legally married then you can be considered to be in a meretricious relationship.

  • Several factors that the court considers when determining if it is a meretricious relationship are:
  • Length of the relationship
  • Time of continuous cohabitation
  • Nature of the relationship
  • Extent to which the funds and assets have been co-mingled
  • Intent of the parties in question
  • Stability and commitment to your relationship
  • Living as though married (have a family together, refer to each other as husband and wife, etc.)

Each case is looked at individually. A couple generally needs to live together continuously for a minimum of 2-3 years and present themselves as being in a committed relationship like a marriage.

Washington state recognizes same-sex relationships as a meretricious relationship.

Even though the state recognizes meretricious relationships in certain situations, it does not give the relationship the same rights as legal marriage.

How will this affect my estate plan?

If you are in a meretricious relationship, you want to make sure that you have an estate plan in place. Your assets will be divided according to the court as they see fit if you do not have specific wishes in your will, and you do not have a legal marriage in place.

Having a comprehensive estate plan ensures that the division and distributions of your assets are done the way you want them to be.

Things you can do:

Put it in Writing

Putting your wishes in writing in your will ensure your assets will be divided the way you want them to be. In some cases, such as a same-sex couple, your partner could be completely left out if the state you live in does not recognize same-sex marriage. In other instances, your house could be awarded to your children instead of your partner because it was not in your will.

Consider a Trust

A revocable living trust keeps your assets from having to go through probate. If you die the court will appoint a someone to manage your probate estate, and if they do not recognize your partner as speaking with the authority of a married partner, that could create ambiguity you want to avoid.

Establish Rights

Cash, investment accounts, and real estate assets should be put into joint ownership so they can pass to the surviving owner. Also, if the couple has children together and only one person is the biological parent, the not-biological parent should adopt the child to get parental rights.

If you are in a meretricious relationship, you should contact a family law attorney. They can help you fill out all essential estate planning forms and help you make sure your assets are divided and distributed according to your wishes.

Contact Lilac City Law for help in setting up a living trust

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Estate Planning and Divorce: Incapacity, Death and Alimony Considerations

Divorce & Financial Planning


If you are considering a divorce, it’s critical to understand the impact of your divorce on what would happen in the event of your incapacity or death, either during the divorce or after.

Unfortunately, most divorce lawyers do not give any thought to incapacity or death, simply because they do not have training on these issues specifically and it’s not at the forefront of their minds when they are advising you through your divorce.

So, that means you may need to be the one to bring it up.


Things to Keep In Mind

When you do, here are some things for you to keep in mind:

Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders

As soon as you file for divorce, automated “orders” go into effect that will limit what you can do with your assets during the divorce. These are generally called Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders or “ATROs” and they impact how you can change prior estate planning documents and what you can do with future estate planning decisions while your divorce is in process. Talking with your divorce lawyer about these issues (or making an appointment to meet with your Personal Family Lawyer®, if we have created your estate plan before you file for divorce) is a wise choice.

Temporary Documents and POAs

If you have already filed for divorce, you may want to revoke any existing powers of attorney and health care directives giving your soon to be ex-spouse control over your assets and your medical decision-making if you were to become incapacitated, as well as execute what we call a “divorce will”, which is a “temporary” Will that would cover the disposition of your assets in the event of your death during your divorce. Again, talk to your divorce lawyer about these temporary documents that can be executed while you are in the divorce process, and then ensure he or she is coordinating with us on your behalf to get these documents prepared and signed.

Be sure to update your “temporary” during divorce estate planning documents once your divorce is final, and all asset dispositions have been handled, to consider your new reality.


There Are Many Ways to Get Divorced

The traditional litigation/fight oriented divorce could require years of litigation, and a division of assets based on legal rights, rather than your specific needs and desires.

Alternatively, there is a movement today towards “conscious uncoupling” in which you and your spouse collaboratively tailor the outcome of your divorce to meet each of your specific needs and desires, as well as the overall impact on your family.

With this method, instead of having a judge make all the important decisions in your divorce, you can make decisions that are right for you. This is especially helpful when dealing with alimony.



Also called spousal support or spousal maintenance depending on the state, is financial support paid to the non-income earning spouse during the divorce proceeding and after the judgment.

Alimony can be paid a number of ways. Most commonly monthly, over a predetermined period of time. Durational payments carry the benefit of a steady income for the recipient but can be modified under certain circumstances, leaving some uncertainty, but also room for continued communication about what’s needed over the non-income earner’s life as well as what’s possible over the lifetime of the income earning spouse.

With a conscious uncoupling process, the needs of each spouse can be revisited over time.

Because monthly payments (and a continuing relationship) aren’t right for every family, alimony can also be paid in a lump sum. This is also referred to as alimony buyout.

Lump sum alimony either in the form of a cash buyout or a disproportionate property division is not subject to modification or termination, so it creates a finality to the relationship that isn’t there with a continuing monthly payment.


Alimony Decisions

If you do decide on continuing monthly payments versus a lump sum alimony payment, it’s critical to ensure that those payments would be able to continue in the event of incapacity or death of the spouse paying alimony. In that case, please talk with us about insurance options to guarantee the alimony. As well as ensuring that the spouse paying alimony has properly handled those payments in his or her estate planning documents.

If you decide on a lump sum alimony, be sure to update your estate planning to reflect the new assets you now will have titled in your own name. We can discuss trust planning options to ensure those assets stay out of Court, if and when anything happens to you.


Financial Guidance on Negotiating a Divorce

For the legal and financial guidance in negotiating a divorce that works for you, come in to meet with us for a Family Wealth Planning Session, if you are not already a client, so you can get clear on what you own, and what would happen to what you own, in the event of your divorce. And, if you are already a client and considering divorce, please contact us so we can help you consider your options and find the right lawyer or lawyers to support your process through the divorce.

As your Personal Family Lawyer®, we can guide you in creating a comprehensive financial plan that protects and preserves your wealth while meeting all your financial obligations. Before the session, we’ll send you a Family Wealth Inventory and Assessment to complete that will get you thinking about what you own, what matters most to you, and what you want to leave behind.



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How Do I Appoint a Guardian For My Child If I Die?

How Do I Appoint a Guardian For My Child If I Die?


Honestly, no one wants to think about this question. It’s a tacit reminder that we are indeed mortal and, in some cases, we may leave this world before we are ready. 

What are our plans if this were to happen?  Putting your assets in a trust, or last desires into a Will – helps to make sure your financial holdings are passed on to whomever you want them to go.  However, if you don’t create a care plan, or declare a guardian for your children the courts may decide who cares for your children if you die.

Are you comfortable with a stranger making this decision?

A Stranger Might Raise Your Children

“My greatest fear, someone I don’t know raising my child… What if something happens to me, who is going to take care of my child?”

This sentiment is a visceral fear that most parents have at some point.  And for a good reason; when we raise our children, we are trying to put the best of ourselves into them.  That means our world view, and our lessons learned, even our religion or philosophy for life.  In short, we are trying to instill our values and love.  But not everyone has those same values, do they?

Before we get into how to go about setting up a Guardianship Plan, this is something to consider…Who should you appoint as a guardian for your children in the event of untimely death?

Who Should Raise Your Children if You Die?

Establishing the Guardianship Plan (Kids Protection Plan) is the last step in the process of protecting your kiddos.  Before you even get that far, you should first be thinking very seriously about who can provide a lifestyle for your family that you’d be ok with raising your family. 

Often this is a sibling, parent, or maybe even an adult child.  However, it’s not uncommon to consider someone who isn’t directly related. Your internal family dynamics aren’t on trial; it’s a very personal consideration and decision you are making in the best interest of your family. Don’t unduly narrow the scope of consideration; this is a choice you are preparing for everyone’s best interest.

Here are some basic requirements and some other things to think about:

Your children’s guardian must be:

  • At least 18 (in most cases)
  • Able to fulfill their duties as a guardian
  • Able to financially provide for your children

Your children’s guardian should be:

  • Of similar outlook to you and your partner
  • Knowledgeable of your goals as a family and parent(s)
  • Capable of providing emotional support for your children
  • Stable (family wise, financially, etc.)
  • Someone that you’re comfortable having around your children.
  • Aware that they are being asked to be appointed as a guardian

How to Appoint a Guardian For Your Children

If you know who you want to take care of your children, the process for establishing a guardian involves declaring your desires in such a way that it will stand up to scrutiny by a judge if necessary. That’s a wordy way to say that just because you have a wish for a guardian, it doesn’t mean your preferences cannot, or will not, get challenged.  This potential hurdle is why so much consideration should go into your decision of who to appoint as a guardian.

A verbal agreement, for instance, is quickly challenged and will not instruct a judge what your wishes are. They may consider it, but without proof, your children will be relying on a judge’s discretion.  In this case, a judge well-meaning meaning but does not know you and will only know you through what information you leave behind if any. Frankly, there are too many unknowns here for me or most moms to feel comfortable knowing things will, “turn out ok!”

Better than a verbal agreement, a quickly drafted written agreement provides at least some potential protection.  In this sense, an informal written agreement certainly is better than a verbal agreement, but it can still be easily challenged.  When looking for how to prepare documents to stand up to future challenges, we always advise putting them together in such a way that it answers all the questions a judge would have about your wishes. That’s why when we prepare guardianship plans, we put all these wishes, desires, values, and more into a well prepared, and notarized, Last Will and Testament.

Placing your guardianship plan in your Last Will means a couple of things.  First, because you probably had an attorney’s input on the structuring of the guardianship plan, it will be structured to be clear enough to avoid being challenged.  Second, it automatically becomes part of the probate process, for which your family will likely have an attorney helping them through.  If the plan is part of your Will, the attorney will be working to make sure your wishes are carried out according to what you have drafted.

Alternatives to Placing Your Guardianship Plan in a Will or Estate Plan?

It is possible to create a Guardianship Plan and not have it be part of your Will. Here’s a free and easy way for you to do it right now.<- This will get you set up with the basics of a Kids Protection (and Guardianship) Plan. You’ll still want to consider having an attorney involved in this process, even if you can use that link to start laying out your desires without one.  The benefits, as described before, are that with an attorney’s assistance you’ll be creating a plan that will stand up to the scrutiny the law requires a judge to pay to your desires and the well-being of your children.

What Happens to My Family If I Die?

Strictly speaking, death isn’t the only way a Guardianship Plan might become necessary.  A Guardianship Plan might be essential if you (and your partner) become incapacitated in some manner too. This potentiality in and of itself describes why you might want to make this more of a protection plan than something you place in your Will and forget.  If you haven’t died, but need to appoint a guardian, you likely still want the plan to support your desires!

Back to the point, what happens if you die?  The processes are determined by the state you live within, but generally speaking, a guardian will be required to establish the ability to provide for your children. This procedure occurs in a court setting. Here’s a great list of requirements and resources for more information, by state.  Of course, if you have questions about this, you can always respond in the comments below too, or send us a question/message here.

Have you Been Through this Process as a Child or as a Guardian?

We’d love to put together a list of tips or lessons learned from the perspective of a child having gone through this, or from the perspective of a guardian having adopted the children of deceased parents.  Please feel free to reach out to us so we can help parents better understand how this process works.  You can contact us here or connect with us on Facebook.

I’m Ready to Protect My Family if I Die, What Do I Need to Do?

Reach out to us via the contact form below, or simply call our office. Our team will reach out to you and send you all the information you need.  We are here to help you protect your family.  It’s our mission and our passion to support you and your family. 

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