In a divorce case, the parties’ retirement accounts, such as IRA, 401k, pension plans are often divided between the divorcing spouses. The final divorce decree will usually contains language that states one spouse releases the other from any claim they may have against the others estate. However, this language does not change who the spouse designates as a beneficiary for their IRA or other retirement account.
Specifically, if the divorcing spouse does not change the beneficiary of their IRA, 401k or pension plan, and, after a divorce subsequently dies, the surviving former spouse, if they remain the named beneficiary, will receive that 401k or retirement account despite the general release language. It is therefore imperative that upon a divorce the parties carefully review their life insurance policies, 401k’s, IRA’s, pension plans, and bank accounts to determine who is named as a beneficiary. Unless the Divorce Decree specifically requires that one spouse remain as a beneficiary on one of these assets, the beneficiaries should be changed to prevent an ex-spouse inheriting an asset. If the divorce is still pending, neither spouse should change the beneficiary language on any asset or insurance policy without consulting with an attorney.
If you have questions regarding retirement accounts and the divorce process, please contact an attorney at Hamblett & Kerrigan to discuss your situation.
Andrew J. Piela is a Director at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A. Mr. Piela concentrates his practice in civil litigation, family law, probate and land use litigation. You can reach Attorney Piela by e-mail at [email protected].