Divorce is absolutely overwhelming, and between the property division, child custody arguments, emotional trauma, and financial issues, it can be easy to forget smaller changes that should happen during the divorce process. You have closed your joint accounts, you have sold the house, you have figured out a visitation schedule – but have you updated your beneficiaries?

Just because you have gotten a divorce doesn’t mean that your husband or wife is no longer a beneficiary on any number of your accounts or policies. Forgetting to change the beneficiary on these plans seems like a minor detail, but it can have disastrous results. If something happens to you even decades from now, a former spouse can reap the benefits instead of your current spouse or other family members – no matter how long you have been divorced and sometimes regardless of what your will says. While former spouses can turn things like life insurance money over to a more deserving person, they are not legally obligated to do so.

Your should review who you have listed as a beneficiary on the following accounts and policies:

•    Retirement plans, such as Keogh and 401K
•    Disability insurance policies
•    Life insurance policies
•    Pension plan
•    IRAs
•    Wills and trusts
•    Annuities
•    Bank accounts
•    Health savings accounts

In many cases, you can change your beneficiaries on these accounts and policies by contacting the company, the bank, or the employer in charge of the account. Many times there are forms that you can download off of the company’s website to fill out, sign, and mail in. Remember to choose your beneficiary wisely and to name a second beneficiary in the event that your primary beneficiary dies. And remember to always keep copies of your beneficiary forms. While this may seem like even more paperwork during an already complicated and stressful time, taking this step could certainly help you avert a future financial disaster.
Molly B. Kenny
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Divorce and Child Custody Attorney Serving Bellevue and Seattle Washington