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Beneficiary designations and divorce in Massachusetts

After people divorce, most do not intend for any of their assets or property to pass to their former spouses. While people may remember to change their wills, they may wrongly believe doing so will automatically change the person to whom their life insurance and retirement accounts will go to. The beneficiary designations on such accounts and policies supersede any contrary information in a will, however. It is thus vitally important that people review their designated beneficiaries in a divorce.

Intended account beneficiaries may not be changed while a divorce is pending. Prior to filing the divorce, people are able to change their beneficiaries. For certain types of retirement accounts, both spouses will have to sign the beneficiary change form, though. If people share a financial adviser, they should be aware that the adviser might inform the other spouse of a change in beneficiaries as well. If changes are not made prior to filing for divorce, people will have to wait until the divorce is final to make the changes.

In some divorce cases, a spouse agrees to continue carrying life insurance to benefit the other spouse after the divorce. As courts will sometimes find that the life insurance should instead go to a different person, the former spouse for whom the policy was intended may be out of luck. Following the divorce, they should make certain their spouse reaffirms them as the intended beneficiary to prevent this from occurring.

In a high-net-worth divorce, the division of property may be especially complex. People may want to bring their account documents and life insurance policies to their family law attorneys. The attorney might help their clients with appropriately designating beneficiaries to ensure the person's assets will pass to their intended beneficiaries as desired rather than to their former spouses.

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