I Just Completed My Divorce, But My Ex-Spouse Is Still Listed As The Beneficiary On Several Of My Documents. What Should I Do Next?
There are several items that should be addressed after a divorce. One item that should be a priority for both parties is the revision of all estate planning documents. There are several reasons for doing this and issues to be addressed.
- Nonprobate assets. Non probate assets are assets that pass outside of a will. There are many different assets that are considered non-probate. Life insurance is one such asset. Life insurance, depending upon the type, may be governed by Texas law or federal law. Generally, under Texas law, an ex-spouse cannot receive the payout as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy if the designation was made prior to divorce. If the ex-spouse was the only designated beneficiary, this can complicate the payout process. Additionally, there are exceptions to this rule that can have surprising results. For example, if a life insurance policy falls under ERISA-based federal law, the beneficiary designation is strictly observed, even if that beneficiary is an ex-spouse.
- Probate assets. Probate assets are assets that pass to a beneficiary as a result of a will. For example, cash accounts without a designated beneficiary are often probate assets. So what happens to those accounts if a person divorces but doesn't revise his or her will to remove the ex-spouse as the primary beneficiary? In Texas, the ex-spouse is treated as if he or she predeceased the decedent. In this case, the ex-spouse is essentially stricken from the will and the property passes to the alternate persons named, which may no longer be the desired result.
Estate planning encompasses multiple issues, including property titling, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, personal property, etc. The assets listed above are just a few that should be addressed with a qualified probate attorney after any party experiences a divorce.