Estate planning is an often-overlooked priority for individuals going through a divorce. Most people aren’t aware of the fact that divorce may legally affect their estate planning documents and beneficiary designations. Fewer still understand how California’s Standard (Automatic) Temporary Restraining Orders (“ATROs”) govern their ability to modify their estate plan during the divorce proceedings.
In California, the ATROs are placed into effect upon the filing of the initial divorce papers.
It is important to note that the ATROs do not affect an individual’s ability to create a new Advance Health Care Directive or Durable Power of Attorney while the divorce is pending. You may also be able to take other actions during the divorce proceeding without triggering the ATROs, but these actions may require notice to or the consent of the other spouse.
While it may be tempting to wait until the divorce is finalized to discuss a new estate plan with your attorney, waiting can have serious unintended consequences. If you are contemplating modifying your estate plan while your divorce is pending, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney, as failure to follow the ATROs can result in legal sanctions.