Trust & Estate Matters In Divorce Proceedings

Expert Witness on Trust and Estate Matters in Divorce Proceedings

A divorce proceeding can trigger many unexpected considerations in regard to trust and estate matters. Dividing marital assets and addressing child custody schedules are frequently the primary focus of attention, but a divorcing party and their attorney should also consider updating legal and financial documents such as a will, power of attorney, and beneficiary designations.

Trust and estates attorney Patti Spencer is available to assist attorneys or a divorcing party during the divorce process, or as an expert witness when property valuation and rights disputes arise. The spouses' interests in family trusts and estates can be extremely valuable.

Trust and Estate Management during the Divorce Process

A divorcing party or their attorney should review the estate plan to make sure it is appropriate in light of the anticipated marital dissolution. No matter how far along the divorce is or how long the action has been pending, the law considers parties to be legally married until the judge signs the final divorce decree. Some exceptions have been made to this rule by Senate Bill 53 which was signed into law by Governor Rendell on October 27, 2010.

If a divorcing party dies or becomes disabled prior to the final decree of divorce, the estranged spouse may have legal control over their soon-to-be ex. They may also be entitled to most, if not all, of the estate. Through properly drafted estate planning documents, divorcing parties can limit the estranged spouse's rights as an estate beneficiary.

Trust and Estate Document Review in a Divorce

Asset planning decisions made pre-divorce can result in unintended consequences when key provisions of critical trust and estate documents are overlooked. Trust and estates attorney and author Patti Spencer can assist in revising or interpreting trust and estate documents as part of a divorce settlement, including:

  • Will
  • Living trust
  • Power of attorney
  • Revocable inter-vivos trust
  • Irrevocable trust
  • Irrevocable life insurance trust or "ILIT"

After an examination of the facts, Ms. Spencer can offer an independent opinion on reasonable and customary treatment of trust and estate matters in a divorce proceeding.

Health Care Matters in a Divorce

Another issue to think about during a pending divorce is health care. Ms. Spencer is available to advise a divorcing party or their attorney on matters relating to a living will or medical directive. Revocation of a surrogate designate may be complicated in the event of a divorce.

Insurance Trust and Estate Matters in a Divorce

The financial institution involved in a life insurance policy, annuity contract, pension, profit-sharing plan or other contractual arrangement providing for payments to a former spouse will not know whether or not there has been a divorce. If the ex-spouse claims the benefit as named beneficiary, some state laws (like Pennsylvania) specifically provide that the paying company shall have no liability. The ex-spouse, of course, is liable but as is always the case with financial liability, one can only recover funds if the defendant still has the funds and has not spent them.

Contact Trust and Estates Attorney Patti Spencer

Patti Spencer's experience and knowledge of trust and estate laws has prepared her to serve as a legal advisor or expert witness in divorce matters. Contact Spencer Law Firm LLC in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to obtain more information or to schedule a consultation. Call 866.639.5451.