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Did you just get a divorce? Better update your estate plan

Let's say you and your wife divorced after 30 years. It's time to update your estate plan, but with so many things going on, you put it off. This is a very big mistake. One of the first thing you should do after filing for divorce is make an appointment with your estate planning lawyer.

If you're like most married couples in Florida, you've organized for your assets to be transferred to the ownership of your wife once you pass. As such, you'll need to update your will as soon as possible to disinherit your ex, and leave your estate to your children, grandchildren or some other party.

Update your beneficiary designations, too

There's another important step you'll have to complete, and it's one that people may overlook. Your company 401(k), your IRA, your insurance documentation and other financial accounts will have a beneficiary designation associated with them. In most cases, spouses list their significant other as the primary beneficiary of these accounts when they open them.

Interestingly, under inheritance laws, the beneficiary designations on financial accounts supersede what's mentioned in a will. As such, even if you state in your will that you want a specific person to benefit from the assets contained in your 401(k) account, if the beneficiary designation still lists your ex-wife's name, she will have a legal right to that money when you die.

Situations where ex-spouses forget to update a beneficiary designation -- or fail to update their will following a divorce -- are more common than you might think. These mistakes have created a lot of sadness and heartache in families, especially when they know that a simple error thwarted their loved one's wishes.

Get help updating your estate plan after a divorce

Estate planning is something you want to get right the first time because you won't have an opportunity to restate your wishes once you've died. You may want to consult with an experienced estate planning lawyer after going through a divorce to ensure that their true wishes will be honored after they're gone.

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