In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court settled a case between a widow and her deceased husband's former wife regarding who would receive the man's federal employee insurance benefits. The judges ruled in favor of the first wife, even though the couple had been divorced for more than 10 years when he died, because she was still the designated beneficiary on his policy.
Some people may not be aware that the assets in most bank accounts, retirement plans, and insurance policies convey directly to the people named on the beneficiary forms, even if they are different from the people named in their wills or trusts. Others simply forget to make the appropriate changes in writing.
If your beneficiary forms are out of date – and your intentions somehow become a matter of dispute – a state and/or federal laws or the administrator's plan documents could ultimately determine who receives your assets.
- Written by Charles Sims Jr.