For most Maryland spouses, the end of their marriage marks the definitive end of the bonds that connected them to their former husband or wife. While this is true in many regards, there are circumstances in which a former spouse could reap the same benefits upon one's death as was the case before a divorce. In order to avoid passing along death benefits or an inheritance to a former husband or wife, a measure of paperwork diligence is required.
Simply obtaining a divorce is not sufficient to sever many forms of financial ties. For example, a spouse who divorces but fails to remove their ex from their will can risk unintentionally bequeathing assets to that individual, should one predecease their ex. While other family members have the right to challenge a will in court, there is no guarantee that doing so will be successful.
A similar risk lies in failing to change the named beneficiary on one's employment benefits. To illustrate that risk, readers should be aware that cases involving divorced beneficiaries have made their way to the Supreme Court. In one case, an ex wife was named as a beneficiary to her former husband's federal life insurance benefits. Upon his death, his widow argued that the law in their home state held that divorce serves to revokes beneficiary decisions. However, the former spouse successfully argued that federal law trumps that of any state, and was awarded her ex husband's life insurance benefits.
For those in Maryland who wish to avoid the possibility that their former spouse could cash in on their death, it is important to take a proactive stance toward the matter. Making these changes is a relatively simple and quick process, and one that should not be postponed. Post- divorce details can quickly be overlooked and forgotten, only to cause major problems in later years. Take the time to make the proper adjustments to wills and insurance policies, then rest assured that the only people who will receive benefits upon your death are those whom you designate.
Source: Forbes, Divorcing Women: Don't Forget To Update These Key Documents, Jeff Landers, Dec. 4, 2013