There is a great deal of overlap between estate planning and family law. So much so that, if you’re seeking a lawyer in either area, you should make sure you have one with experience in the other area of law.
Take your divorce lawyer. Why would knowledge of estate planning be important? Well, for starters, your divorce is going to end at some point. And because divorces often take much longer than we’d like, we are often exhausted after they’re done, and have no desire to do any other kind of planning or work on the whole divorce issue. But once the divorce is done, this is when the really critical aspects of your financial life and future come into play. You need to change your beneficiaries on your retirements and life insurance. You need to change and update your will and estate plan, your powers of attorney, and the guardians for your children. A divorce lawyer without estate planning experience is not necessarily going to make sure you’re properly advised on these issues.
Conversely, let’s look at your estate planning attorney. First, in blended families (where one or both spouses have children from a prior relationship), there are specific estate planning issues that overlap with family law. In addition, it’s important to know whether either of the spouses has separate property. Separate property is property that either spouse owned prior to the marriage. If either has separate property, then putting the property into the trust without a separate property agreement transforms the property into community property…and this could make the owner spouse quite upset should the couple eventually decide to divorce.
These are just a few of the small issues that overlap, and there are many more. So many that it would be detrimental to you and your family – not to mention your financial future – to consult with an attorney who lacks knowledge and experience in one of these areas.
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