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How separation may affect estate planning

Florida fans of Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade may be aware that each was separated from their spouse at the time of their death. If this happens, the legal spouse is in charge of funeral arrangements even if the two were estranged. It can also cause complications for the estate.

Details of Spade's separation have been kept largely private, but Bourdain was open about the fact that his marriage suffered from long periods apart due to work and determination to co-parent successfully. However, in some cases, the separation may be less amicable, and a person might want to put some precautions in place.

For example, if a person does not want a spouse to handle healthcare decisions and funeral arrangements, the person may want to create an advance healthcare directive that appoints someone who will be responsible for this. The spouse and the person chosen to take over those duties should both be alerted about the change and the person's preferences. The two spouses might also want to work together on revised estate plans for each of them. There may need to be communication between the family law attorney and the estate planning attorney. However, it is not necessary to revise the entire estate plan to put a few stopgap measures such as the advance healthcare directive in place.

Major life changes are generally a good time to review an estate plan and find out if it needs to be updated whether those changes are separation, divorce or marriage. Other changes within the family, including births and deaths, may be a reason to review and change the estate plan. Beneficiary designations might be overlooked in these changes, but it is important to include them as well since they override trusts and wills.

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