|September 22, 2012|
Previously published on September 18, 2012
Recent changes to Florida Statute Section 732.703 may invalidate your beneficiary designations. The Statute now states that, except for in a limited set of circumstances, if a person dies on or after July 1, 2012 his or her designations to a former spouse which were made prior to the dissolution of their marriage (even if such designation was made prior to the law taking effect) are invalid. This invalidation applies to a number of assets including, but not limited to, life insurance policies, qualified annuities, employee benefit plans, individual retirement accounts, and payable on death accounts.
Here is an example of when this new statue can create an issue for a former spouse. Harry and Sally are married. Harry has a life insurance policy which names Sally as the beneficiary. Harry and Sally decide it is best for them to part ways and file for divorce. In order to secure Sally's ability to support herself in the event of Harry's death, Harry agrees to continue to maintain his life insurance policy and keep Sally named as the beneficiary. The Judge enters an order divorcing Harry and Sally. Harry and Sally figure there is no need for Harry to make any changes to his life insurance policy since Sally is already the named beneficiary.
This is no longer true. If Harry dies after July 1, 2012, his prior designation is invalid and his life insurance will be distributed as though Sally predeceased Harry. FN1 Sally needs to ensure Harry designates her as the beneficiary AFTER the date the Judge entered the order divorcing Harry and Sally in a document which expressly provides that benefits will be payable to Harry's former spouse.
In summary, if you would like your former spouse to remain the beneficiary of an asset upon your death, or you are entitled to remain the beneficiary of an asset of your former spouse, it would be wise to ensure you or your former spouse execute a document dated AFTER the date of the order dissolving your marriage which confirms the beneficiary designation.
*Note that the revised Statute contains the following exception: "If the order of dissolution or order declaring the marriage invalid requires that the decedent acquire or maintain the asset for the benefit of a former spouse or children of the marriage, payable upon the death of the decedent either outright or in trust, only if other assets of the decedent fulfilling such a requirement for the benefit of the former spouse or children of the marriage do not exist upon the death of the decedent." Notwithstanding the foregoing, a spouse would be wise to ensure an additional designation is executed following the entry of the order dissolving his or her marriage.