First of all, you should make the necessary changes in your will or other estate planning documents to ensure that your former spouse isn’t named as your personal representative, successor trustee, beneficiary, or holder of the power of attorney. A new will will likely be drafted during the separation period. Note that in some states, wills drawn up during a marriage are considered void after a divorce unless specifically ratified after the divorce. This means that intestacy rules would apply, instead of the will being controlling.
Next, consider gift tax implications if funding your children’s education is required by your property settlement. Although your direct tuition payments (even for adult children) are exempt from gift tax when required by a property settlement agreement, be aware that your payments for related educational expenses (e.g., books and room and board) may be subject to gift tax.
Liz and Frank have a daughter, Carol. Carol has reached the age of majority under state law. When the couple divorced, Frank agreed (as part of the settlement) to pay for Carol’s college tuition, books, room, and board. During the year, Frank pays $20,000 tuition directly to Carol’s university, and he gives Carol $15,000 in cash for living expenses. The tuition isn’t a taxable gift, but the $15,000 in cash will be treated as a taxable gift.
Finally, consider the absence of the unlimited marital deduction. A deduction is allowed for qualifying transfers to one’s spouse during lifetime or at death. Because this gift and estate tax deduction is one of the most important estate planning tools for married couples, your loss of this tool at divorce can affect your tax situation adversely when you die.