How Can Divorce Affect Your Beneficiary Status?

A gavel sitting on top of a divorce decree

Many items will change after a divorce, your living arrangement, bank accounts, assets and debts, and the status of single. However, your beneficiary designation to your former partner’s accounts will also change. Therefore, it is important to address with your attorney the specific beneficiary designations you have, as well as your spouse, that may need to be altered after your divorce proceedings.

Beneficiary designations can be made in many different forms including: life insurance policies, annuities, employee benefit plans, retirement accounts, payable on death accounts, security accounts, wills, and trusts. It is common during your marriage to have these estate plans or accounts made payable to your spouse upon your death. However, after a divorce, it is likely your will no longer desire to have your former spouse be a beneficiary on any of your documents. Therefore, Florida Statute addresses these instances of beneficiary designations in Statute 732.703 “A designation made by or on behalf of the decedent providing for the payment or transfer at death of an interest in an asset to or for the benefit of the decedent’s former spouse is void as of the time the decedent’s marriage was judicially dissolved or declared invalid by court order prior to the decedent’s death, if the designation was made prior to the dissolution or court order. The decedent’s interest in the asset shall pass as if the decedent’s former spouse predeceased the decedent.” This law was enacted to avoid the unintended disposition of certain assets upon a former spouses’ death, if they were unable to address these documents before their death. However, this specific statute only applies to life insurance policies, annuities, employee benefit plans, retirement accounts, payable on death accounts, and security accounts.

Other beneficiary designations such as Wills and Trusts are handled in a similar fashion but are governed by Florida Statute 732.507(2) and 736.1105 providing that a will or trust executed while married will become void upon divorce, as to the certain designations made to the former spouse. Instead, those designations will be treated as if the former spouse passed.

Therefore, after your divorce, every designation made prior to your divorce, in your spouse’s name will be deemed invalid or revoked. You should take steps to designate new beneficiaries on these documents. However, it is important to note that during the pendency of your divorce proceedings you and your spouse will still be the beneficiary on these documents as the law will only become applicable after final dissolution. Therefore, it may be prudent to ensure security on personal wills or trusts to designate new beneficiaries during your divorce, unless the court orders otherwise.

Speak to your attorney about your own and your spouses’ beneficiary designations and the applicability of statute to your case. Further, discuss the possible need to take action of changing beneficiary designations during the pendency of your divorce proceedings.

Speaking to an attorney at our Orlando office is free of charge, and we accept calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us at 407-512-0887 or complete an online contact form to get in touch with a member of our team today.

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