Gray divorce, estate planning challenges are more prevalent today, especially given the rise in gray divorce. Gray divorce refers to older couples that have decided to divorce after years of marriage.

According to an LA Times article written in 2013, such gray couples are typically 50 or older. While divorce overall has dropped since its peak in the 1980’s, gray divorce has increased to the point where 25% of divorces today involve couples over 50 years old.

How Does the Gray Divorce, Estate Planning Interface Occur?

Divorcing young couples with short-term marriages probably never bothered to deal with estate planning. In contrast, couples with long-standing marriages often have a number of financial instruments in place. Earlier on, they had hoped to spend their golden years together and enjoy retirement.

It’s more likely than not that they named each other in their wills or trusts and that each would be the executor of the other’s estate. They may have appointed each other as agents in durable powers of attorney, living wills or advance health care directives and probably are beneficiaries of each other’s insurance policies. Now they face divorce, and not only must they divide common assets, but they must also address the estate planning that wove their lives together. Certainly pension or retirement plans factor into their relationship as assets being divided during divorce. However, retirement plans often are also an integral part of estate planning and it’s wise to involve financial planners, accountants and other professionals to protect the interests of both parties.

What Timing Is Involved with Gray Divorce and Estate Planning?

Ideally, your divorce lawyer would have detailed knowledge of the legal instruments involved with your estate planning. The timing of when to revise the documents should be done under legal advisement. According to the Texas Estates Code, the court considers an ex-spouse as having pre-deceased a spouse who dies, and provisions in the will for the ex-spouse are void. Even so, not revising a will can lead to expensive legal battles. Also, if you want your wishes carried out instead of a court deciding for you, it is wise to meet with an attorney and discuss estate planning issues during your divorce.