Legal Blog

The Weekly Scenario from Steve Shane – 7.30.12

This was a question I received this week from a professional advisor and thought it had wide applicability so here it goes… Question:  My client is divorcing her spouse.  If her divorce agreement does not state otherwise, what happens if she does not change her Will or beneficiary designations on her life insurance after her divorce? Answer:  In Maryland, after a divorce, bequests in a Will to former spouses are typically void.  But, in most cases in MD, a divorce will not necessarily render null and void a distribution to your ex from a revocable trust or prevent him from taking under a life insurance policy or retirement account if he is named as the beneficiary absent an agreement to the contrary.  So, if she were to pass away and not change the beneficiary designation on her life insurance policy, her ex could wind up with the entire policy proceeds. Comment:  Recently the State of Florida passed legislation (in response to a host of litigation) that provides that after a divorce or annulment, in general, ex-spouses named as beneficiaries in many non-probate assets (e.g., IRAs, life insurance, qualified annuities) will be treated automatically as if they predeceased the decedent. Just to note, in Virginia, after a divorce, revocable beneficiary designations naming a former spouse are by law, void for life insurance and annuities. So what can we learn here?  First, let’s always be sure the divorce agreement covers these contingencies.  In some states, the law may cover certain contingencies.  Nevertheless, I recommend to clients that after a divorce or separation, they update their estate documents and beneficiary designations as there are likely to be gaps in the person’s documents (particularly if trusts are set up and there are non-probate assets that come into play) and it is always better to be safe than sorry. Steven E. Shane Principal Offit│Kurman Attorneys At Law 301.575.0313 Washington 443.738.1513 Baltimore 410.218.9339 Mobile 301.575.0335 Facsimile Please note the above material discussed is intended to provide only general information. Do not, under any circumstances, solely rely on this information as legal advice. Legal matters are often complicated. For assistance with your specific legal problem or inquiry please contact me directly.