Law Office of Stephen W. Penn and Associates

Did you double-check your beneficiaries after the divorce?

Avoid a headache for your family and make sure you have removed your ex-spouse as your beneficiary on all your legal documents.

If you do not want your ex-spouse to receive anything from your estate in the event of your death, it is worth the time to double-check that they are removed as your "beneficiary" from any document that would indicate otherwise. If not, your ex-spouse could lead your family through costly court proceedings.

For your will, living trust, or estate plan to reflect any desired changes, be sure to manually update each one. Divorce may not automatically nullify your ex-spouse's right to inherit. It might also confuse your family as to your final wishes.

Double check these documents

Take the time to review the following if you want to be sure your ex-spouse's name has been removed as beneficiary and contingent beneficiary from these documents after the divorce has been finalized. (Doing so during the divorce proceedings could be illegal. Always follow the details printed in the settlement agreement.)

  • Your living will
  • Your power of attorney (healthcare and financial)
  • Your retirement accounts: ERISAs, IRAs, 401ks, etc.
  • Life insurance policy
  • Emergency contacts at your workplace
  • Your checking and savings accounts
  • Credit card accounts
  • Phone accounts
  • Shares
  • Estate executor or trustee status
  • Personal investments

If your divorce settlement states that you must wait to remove your spouse as a beneficiary until after you have finished paying alimony or child support payments, be sure to wait. Set an external reminder for when this date comes, such as an email with a future send date or an appointment set for years in the future.

When you can do so legally, it is important to remove your ex-spouse as a beneficiary on any legal documents. That way, you can make your wishes clear and avoid any future confusion for your family.

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  • State Bar Of California | California Board Of Legal Specialization | Stephen W. Penn
  • Henry P. Collada Memorial Award 2012