We do a lot of estate planning and probate here at the Jacobson Law Firm, and we generally advise people that if they can name a beneficiary for a bank or investment account, insurance policy or annuity they own, they should do so, because then that account doesn't have to go through their estate after they die. However, we also tell them it's a good idea to review their accounts and policies every few years. I got a call from a man recently who told me his ex-wife had named him as the beneficiary on her six-figure annuity while they were married. After the divorce, "We stayed friends and she told me she still wanted me to have the annuity when she passed." However, when she died and he called the company handling the annuity, he was told that although he was still listed, they wouldn't be able to pay him. "Can they do that?"
In Texas (and in many states), when two parties get divorced, it is as though they had predeceased each other for purposes of inheritance and beneficiary status. In other words, "You're dead to me!" is actually true. In the scenario above, if the ex-wife had gone back and re-designated him as the beneficiary after the divorce was final, he'd have been able to get the six-figure payday; but because she didn't, the law prohibits him from being the beneficiary. The same goes for serving as agents, such as in a financial or medical power of attorney or as executor under a will: if redesignated after the divorce, the ex can be your executor or agent, but not if you don't specifically name him/her AFTER the date of the divorce.
All this leads back to this suggestion: divorced or not, it's always a good idea to go back and review your estate planning periodically, to make sure what you THINK you did is actually what you did. If you're concerned about whether your estate planning documents still meet your changing needs (or if you don't have any yet), consult an experienced estate planning attorney.
As always, the above is legal information, not legal advice, and it's based on Texas law because I'm a Texas lawyer.
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