The Importance Of Changing Beneficiary Designations After Divorce

A divorce proceeding requires a number of important decisions to make regarding property, parenting time, the marital home, non-marital property and financial support among many other matters to address. However, once the ink is dry on your divorce decree, there are often a number of equally important matters to take care of after the proceeding. 

Often forgotten or left too late, these tasks include: 

  • Executing the appropriate real estate documents to appropriately title and transfer property
  • Addressing division of retirement assets after the divorce decree through a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) or other method
  • Executing the appropriate documents to transfer other property such as cars or recreational vehicles
  • Revisiting and revising your estate plan and updating your beneficiaries
  • Updating your life insurance policy beneficiaries

Your divorce attorney should be advising you on how to accomplish these tasks or who to consult with to make sure all loose ends are tied up. Not properly finalizing all aspects of your divorce can land the issue in court.

Many divorce attorneys refer the preparation of a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to other professionals. Most attorneys, however, will assist with the transfer of vehicle titles and real estate documents. Usually, revising your estate plan is handled by an attorney whose practice emphasizes this area of the law. You should be able to work directly with your life insurance company after consultation with an estate planning attorney.

Recently, the United States Supreme Court accepted a case involving an outdated beneficiary designation. In that case, the husband designated wife as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy while they were married. After he made this designation, Minnesota changed a law that affected the designation should the couple divorce. When they divorced, he did not update his beneficiary designation. After he died his children and his ex-spouse ended up in a dispute that went all the way to the highest court in the country. 

Dealing with issues after the divorce can be just as exhausting as the divorce process itself, but it is critical to make sure you ask your attorney about potential pitfalls before it leads down a path of conflict. A little prevention will go a long way toward preventing problems in the future. 


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