New Jersey residents who are divorcing may want to think about updating important personal documents with their new status. This includes changing any beneficiary designations, which must be done separately from rewriting a will. When this change should be made depends upon individual circumstances.
An individual who is planning to file for divorce but hasn’t informed their spouse may want to wait to change the designations as many types of accounts require the spouse’s written consent. Furthermore, a shared financial adviser might inform the other spouse about the change. However, once the divorce is underway, a spouse cannot be disinherited. Therefore, changing the beneficiary designation should be a top priority as soon as the divorce is final if it is not done prior to filing.
There may be special circumstances in which an individual does not wish to remove a former spouse from some beneficiary designations. For example, an individual may want to ensure that the ex-spouse receives child and spousal support even in the event of the individual’s death. However, in such a case, the individual may wish to take steps to reduce the chance that this designation might be challenged by a spouse or children from a subsequent marriage. Making one’s wishes clear and renaming the ex-spouse as beneficiary after the divorce may help.
Redoing or reinforcing beneficiary designations is only one aspect of the paperwork involved with divorce and property division. There may be a number of financial entanglements that must be negotiated, and an attorney may be helpful in those negotiations. In a high-asset divorce, the assistance of an attorney may become particularly important as determining what property constitutes joint marital assets and agreeing on an equitable division can be complex.