Changing Beneficiary Designations Because of Divorce

New York residents who have recently gotten divorced may want to update the beneficiary designations on all of their important financial accounts. Although some people believe that updating a will after a divorce is sufficient, doing this alone will not change the beneficiary designations on retirement plans, life insurance policies and bank accounts.

Many married people name their spouse as the beneficiary of financial accounts in the event of their death. After going through a divorce, it's likely that most of them would not want to leave the beneficiary designations unchanged. Should a divorced person die without changing the beneficiary designations on their financial accounts, their ex-spouse would have a legal right to claim the assets in those accounts.

Changing beneficiary designations on financial accounts is something that can only be done prior to or after a divorce. Once divorce proceedings have begun, spouses must wait until the divorce is finalized to change their beneficiary designations. If a person who is planning to divorce their spouse would like to change their beneficiary designations before filing, their spouse might have to provide their written consent for the change.

A person who is planning a divorce may want to speak to an attorney about issues such as modifying a will and making changes to beneficiary designations. An attorney may be able to advise a person about how to handle all of their financial accounts before, during and after a divorce. Because many changes to financial accounts cannot be made once divorce proceedings have begun, an attorney may be able to help a person prepare for the eventuality by making those changes ahead of time.