The short answer to this complicated question is: yes, you should avoid any unnecessary risks when you are getting a divorce. The following are steps that you can and should take both during and after divorce proceedings.
You can start the process of changing your beneficiaries before your divorce is final on many assets. However, even if you change your will or the beneficiary on your assets, your spouse will likely still be entitled to some of the assets if you die before the divorce decree is finalized, but changing the documents may help limit what he or she receives, and it is also a good way of showing what you really want to be done with your assets. Once divorce proceedings have begun, your ability to change beneficiaries may be limited due to what is known as an ATRO or Automatic Temporary Restraining Order. If you and your spouse can agree, you may be able to get a separation agreement before the divorce in which you would each forfeit claims to each other’s property. Of course, this process could be complicated, especially if the marriage has lasted for a long time and if you own property together. Therefore, it is best to consult with an attorney before signing anything or even talking about an agreement with your spouse.
Once your divorce is final, your spouse will likely automatically be removed from any document where he or she was listed as a beneficiary. A court will also assume that you did not want your estate to go to him or her in the event of your death. Nevertheless, it is still a better idea to make it very clear what your intentions with your property are instead of relying on the government. Outlining your wishes will also make the process easier for your beneficiaries and decrease the chance of unwelcome surprises.
Many assets circumvent wills, such as life insurance policies, payable-on-death account and retirement accounts. You should make sure to update your beneficiary on these as soon as possible and name a primary beneficiary as well as contingent beneficiaries to decrease how often you have to update documents. You should also make sure to get your spouse off of all joint accounts or payable-on-death accounts during or immediately after the divorce proceedings.
For help with your case or in any other aspect of family law, you can turn to the Law Office of Renkin & Associates for the help that you deserve. Our attorneys are prepared to serve you in any way possible.