Beneficiary Designations
Key Points
  • Divorce can be tricky especially when you have retirement accounts. Make sure in a divorce you have the proper paperwork to change beneficiaries once you are divorced.

Most of us today are "worth more dead than alive." That is because a large part of our estate consists of life insurance policies and retirement plans. Importantly, those assets, such as life insurance policies, 401K plans, IRAs and annuities, generally are not subject to your will, but instead pass to whomever you have designated as your beneficiary. People typically have designated their spouse as sole beneficiary for all such assets.

Accordingly, it is imperative to immediately review all beneficiary designations and to make appropriate changes. Please note that under Federal law, your legal spouse must be named as sole beneficiary of all your company pension, profit sharing and 401K plans unless he or she agrees otherwise in writing on a form provided by your employer. Check with a qualified estate planning attorney to make sure you follow all applicable rules in naming beneficiaries of these assets.

Suggested Reading
Divorce & Money: How to Make the Best Financial Decisions
This book is a practical guide to evaluating assets during divorce. It explains how to determine the real value of marital property including houses, businesses, retirement plans and investments and how to negotiate a settlement that is fair to both sides.

Authors: Violet Woodhouse & Dale Fetherling

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ELEMENTS OF AN ESTATE PLAN – An estate plan includes a will, a power of attorney, and a living will or health care proxy (a medical power of attorney). In some cases, a trust may also make sense.

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