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Look both ways at Intersection of estate planning and family law

There are many areas of practice of the law. That might suggest to many readers that there might be little overlap, but the truth is that there can be some significant points at which everyday legal issues intersect. Working with an attorney who has experience in multiple practice areas can be helpful in making sure that one's best interests are protected, no matter where the roads cross.

One clear example of where issues could collide if care is not taken involves the junction of family law and estate planning. Divorce is more common in Arkansas and every other state than at any other time in history. So is estate planning. It can be easy to deal with each as separate matters, but unless they are addressed holistically, problems can result.

When a couple first starts out, the parties might take the appropriate step of creating an estate plan that includes obtaining life insurance coverage that provides adequate benefits to the other spouse in the event of death.

If the couple does start a family and then a decision to divorce is made, attention in the moment may dwell on immediate matters, such as spousal and child support, and division of assets. The final settlement agreement will usually cover how those obligations should be met, but the longer-term issues covered by the original estate plan could be overlooked. Questions of who should be the proper beneficiary of life insurance payouts could create a legal conundrum if, say, the policies weren't updated to reflect that children should be included.

What this reflects is that legal matters are dynamic. They aren't something that should be considered fully addressed after just one visit to the lawyer. Thus, working with someone skilled across many areas of legal practice can help ensure that plans and unanticipated circumstances don't collide.

Source: National Law Review, "How Divorce Can Impact Your Estate Plan," Catherine F. Schott Murray, accessed July 7, 2016

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