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Rhode Island residents: change beneficiaries after divorce

When it comes to annuities, a retirement account or a life insurance plan, most people in Rhode Island name a beneficiary and then promptly forget about it. It only makes sense, when married, to select one's spouse as the beneficiary to these important accounts. But what happens to these beneficiary designations if the couple divorces? When this happens, it is important not to let the issue sit on the back burner, but to address it as soon as possible.

That being said, in some cases, a beneficiary cannot be changed until after the divorce is officially complete. This is because in some cases, each spouse needs to sign off on a change in beneficiaries. In addition, if a person attempts to change beneficiaries before the divorce is complete, his or her soon-to-be ex-spouse may be informed of this decision. Moreover, elective share rights may prevent a person from being able to change a beneficiary designation until after the divorce proceedings are completed.

Some states have taken legal measures to prevent an ex-spouse from receiving assets as a beneficiary. However, other states have no such laws in place. In addition, when it comes to beneficiary designations, federal law could take precedence over state law, causing a conflict.

In addition, one may change his her will or other estate planning documents after a divorce so that the ex-spouse won't inherit the assets at issue and think that doing so is sufficient. Not so! Beneficiary designations trump what is written in a will. Therefore, as soon as possible after a divorce, a person should change all beneficiary designations. If not, it is possible that those assets could pass to an ex-spouse even after the divorce, instead of those to whom the policyholder would truly wish those assets to go.

As this shows, Rhode Island residents should not wait to change their beneficiaries after their divorce is complete. After all, death does not respect age. If one waits too long to change beneficiaries, one could pass away, leaving one's ex-spouse as the recipient of these important assets.

Source: Forbes, "Divorcing Women - Know The Laws Affecting Your Beneficiary Designations," Jeff Landers, April 9, 2015

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