This week the Supreme Court ruled that companies are bound by what is written on beneficiary designation forms. This means that once your divorce is final, you need to review your beneficiary designations to be sure you are leaving your retirement benefits and life insurance proceeds to your intended heirs and not to your ex-spouse, if that is your desire.
In the Supreme Court case, William Kennedy’s wife waived her rights to William’s retirement money in their divorce decree. She was William’s beneficiary during their marriage. He did not change his beneficiary designation after the divorce. When he died in 2001, the company apparently sent William’s wife the balance in his account, $402,000. She had moved to Norway and then died in 2007. William’s daughter, Kari, claimed that her father wanted to leave his retirement money to her instead of to his ex-wife.
Since he never updated the beneficiary on this account, his daughter is not entitled to that money.
Regardless of whether you are divorcing, divorced, single or happily married, periodically check the beneficiaries on your retirement accounts and life insurance policies. I recommend everyone do that once a year. Then, someday, may you rest in peace.