If your loved one died as a relatively wealthy person with many assets and had a clearly written will, you may take comfort in knowing the succession process will be fairly easy. However, if you learn that a former spouse is still listed as the beneficiary of your loved one's life insurance and retirement accounts, the process could become complicated.
Will the Ex-Spouse Get the Life Insurance and Retirement Money?
The answer to this critical question depends on many different factors, including:
- The type of plan. Some plans recognize ex-spouses as beneficiaries. For example, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a federal law that governs retirement accounts and recognizes the last named beneficiary of the account as the beneficiary regardless of whether a divorce occurred. Similarly, federal employees who have life insurance pursuant to the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Act (FEGLI) must update their beneficiary designation to avoid having a former spouse receive life insurance proceeds. Retirement plans and life insurance plans that are governed by other laws may not have the same rules.
- The applicable law. Various laws likely apply when determining the right beneficiary. Your Louisiana estate litigation attorney will consider all applicable federal laws, Louisiana laws, and the terms of the divorce decree, retirement account, or life insurance policy.
- Your loved one's intent. A former spouse may be listed as a beneficiary for one of two reasons. Your loved one may have intended to have the ex-spouse as the beneficiary either as part of the divorce settlement or because they maintained a good post-divorce relationship. Alternatively, your loved one may have forgotten to change the beneficiary after the divorce. In Louisiana, intent matters, and an ex-spouse may be a legal beneficiary.
All of these things must be carefully reviewed and analyzed before you know what will happen to the retirement or life insurance money.
Make Sure Your Family's Rights Are Protected
Life insurance and retirement beneficiary law can be complicated and contentious. To avoid problems, we encourage you to contact our experienced Louisiana estate litigation lawyers as soon as possible. We will analyze all aspects of the dispute and advise you of your options. Please contact us via this website or by phone to schedule an initial consultation.