Florida Law Nullifies Beneficiary Interests of Ex-Spouses

Florida Law Nullifies Beneficiary Interests of Ex-Spouses

For of the disposition of certain assets, Florida estate law now treats a divorced spouse the same as a predeceased spouse as soon as the divorce decree is final.

Many states have implemented similar rules applicable to wills. However, the new Florida law extends to non-probate interests, such as insurance, annuities, employee benefit plans, IRAs and 401(k) plans. When ex-spouses are named beneficiaries under these types of plans, they are now treated as if they had predeceased, once the marriage is dissolved. Joint accounts with rights of survivorship are not covered by the new law.

A new Florida statute helps resolve unintended situations created when divorced spouses fail to revise their beneficiary designations on non-probate assets. In many ways, the law acknowledges the most probable reason for a beneficiary designation of an ex-spouse is that the deceased individual simply forgot to revise his or her beneficiary designation.

There is still some potential for ambiguity where a former spouse may have actually intended to designate his or her ex-spouse as a beneficiary for certain assets. For example, where the two continue to have a relationship because they are parenting their children, or have joint business interests. These designations must now be reestablished and verified to be as clear as possible. For example, one spouse could have agreed to maintain the other spouse as a beneficiary on a certain account as part of their divorce agreement. The law, of course, does not prevent this. Rather, it requires that the designation be clear and reaffirmed.

Information provided is of a general nature and does not act as a substitute for a personal discussion with an estate planning attorney. Your circumstances may create different legal opportunities.