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Changing named beneficiaries after a divorce

Many Georgia spouses are quick to change the terms of their last will and testament after going through a divorce. However, they are often not as thorough as they should be when reorganizing their financial affairs. While their will may designate that somebody other than their former spouse receive the benefits of their retirement plans or life insurance policies, these changes may have little effect if the beneficiaries on those plans and policies have not been changed. This is because those named as beneficiaries on financial documents will have legal precedence over language to the contrary in a will.

A husband or wife is commonly named as the beneficiary on a wide variety of documents and accounts while a couple remains married, but spouses will often wish to make changes after the end of a marriage. Time may not be a pressing concern with a retirement account that will not yield benefits for many years, but it could be crucial with a life insurance policy.

Failing to proactively handle these financial matters can give rise to bitter and costly legal disputes. While state courts have generally been sympathetic to spouses who have changed their wills but not their insurance policies or retirement accounts, federal courts have tended to side with named beneficiaries even in cases where spousal waivers have been signed.

Many spouses are emotionally drained by the time their divorce is finalized, and they are often eager to put legal matters to one side as they move forward. However, an experienced family law attorney may remind them that important work still needs to be done. In addition to updating their estate plans and the named beneficiaries on their insurance policies and retirement accounts, an attorney could also recommend that divorced spouses take steps to protect their credit and develop a sound financial plan.

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