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Make Sure Your Ex Doesn’t Inherit Your Assets


You divorced your spouse a decade ago. You haven’t seen or heard from them since you received the final divorce decree and they haven’t been in your life at all.

But if they’re listed in your will, trust, or other estate plan, they may end up in your life again—after your death. What will happen after your death will depend on state law. State laws generally make it so that ex-spouses lose all property rights in the event of a divorce. However, you want to make sure. Find out what you need to know about your assets so you can truly rest in peace after your death.

What the Law Says

Under Florida law, spouses lose all inheritance rights in a divorce. So even if your ex-spouse is listed in your will, they won’t get anything unless you specifically state in your estate plan that you do want them to inherit your assets.

Otherwise, the only way the ex-spouse will maintain inheritance rights is if the couple is still in the divorce process (it has not been finalized yet). Also, the couple is separated but not divorced, the spouse can still inherit.

However, there is an exception: retirement plans. Pensions and other retirement plans are governed under federal law (Employee Retirement Income Security Act). Therefore, they cannot be included in an estate plan. They have their own laws and beneficiaries. If you fail to change your beneficiaries after a divorce, your ex could inherit these assets.

What You Can Do

To keep your ex from inheriting your hard-earned money and asset, take these steps:

  • To change your IRA beneficiaries, contact the financial institution that holds the account and ask them for a change-of-beneficiary form.
  • To change 401(k) account beneficiaries, go to your employer’s HR department and file the required paperwork. If you’ve never been married, find out who the beneficiary is and decide if you want to make changes.
  • If you have 401(k) accounts from previous employers, roll them over into an IRA. At the same time, you can fill out beneficiary forms provided by the financial institution holding the IRA.
  • For either account, designate secondary beneficiaries. If your spouse is your primary beneficiary, then they may die before you do, so choose children or grandchildren as secondary beneficiaries.
  • If you experience any life events, such as marriage, divorce, or a birth or death, be sure to reassess your estate plan and pensions to determine if any changes need to be made.

Seek Legal Help

Estate planning documents need to be updated after major events, such as divorce. Otherwise, your ex could stand to inherit your money and other assets.

Learn more about common probate administration disputes. Fort Lauderdale probate litigation lawyer Edward J. Jennings, P.A. can give you sound advice so you have peace of mind later in life. To schedule a consultation with our office, call 954-764-4330 or fill out the online form.




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