Changing Beneficiary Designations Following a Divorce
While changing beneficiary designations following a divorce may seem like common sense, it is easier than you might think to simply overlook a necessary change. Among the most important accounts that necessitate a beneficiary designation change are life insurance policies, pension plans, IRAs, 401(k) plans, and other retirement plans. Since many of these accounts hold significant assets, it is essential that you take the time to go through all of your accounts and ensure that your wishes will be carried out pursuant to a correct beneficiary designation. You also should be aware of how state law impacts your assets if you should pass away with your ex-spouse still named as beneficiary.
Florida Law and Failure to Change a Beneficiary Designation
A fairly recent change in Florida law squarely addresses the failure of an individual to change the beneficiary designation on his or her life insurance policy or retirement account after a divorce. If the individual passes away without removing his or her ex-spouse as beneficiary of a life insurance policy or other account, Florida law now permits any assets to pass on to the individual’s heirs, just as if the ex-spouse predeceases the individual. This law presumes that an individual does not purposely leave his or her ex-spouse as a beneficiary of his or her assets following a divorce. This updated law also gives insurance companies greater guidance on how to proceed if the insured has left his or her ex-spouse as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy. More specifically, the insurance company can look to the deceased’s marital status and current relationship with the named beneficiary.
Exceptions to Florida Law
One big exception to the Florida law regarding failure to change a beneficiary following a divorce is if the divorce decree specifies that the now-deceased individual maintain a life insurance benefit for his or her ex-spouse or children of the marriage. So long as no other assets would fulfill the benefit that the deceased was required to maintain under the divorce decree, then the insurer will not treat the ex-spouse as predeceasing the decedent. Rather, the life insurance beneficiary designation will remain intact and the assets will pass to the ex-spouse. The same logic typically does not apply, however, to a retirement account, which normally would be divided through a qualified domestic relations order. In this case, the ex-spouse already would have ownership of his or her portion of the pension or retirement account, so the beneficiary designation would be moot.
Contact an Experienced Florida Divorce Lawyer for Help
Here at the Vanessa L. Prieto Law Offices, LLC, we understand the importance of taking all steps following your divorce proceedings to remove your ex-spouse as a beneficiary to your life insurance policies and retirement accounts. We have represented numerous clients in South Florida divorce cases who face these and many other crucial issues that only an experienced Florida divorce lawyer can help you properly resolve. If you wish to set up a consultation with a skilled and knowledgeable Florida divorce attorney, please contact our office at 954-800-2362 or fill out the online form located here.