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Insurance beneficiary after divorce

Hello. I was divorced from my ex-wife several years ago. We have a son who is now 17 years old. My understanding of the law in Massachusetts is that when a person gets divorced any bequests he had made to his former spouse in a will are no longer valid. But I'm wondering if I need to do something to make sure that my son, who has always been named as my beneficiary on my life insurance policy, will still get that money when I die. I assume he will, but wanted to make sure. Thanks

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You are correct that, under current Massachusetts law, your Judgment of Divorce revoked any bequests you may have made to your former spouse in your will. However, that legal result does not apply to your children.  (Certainly, after a divorce you should ask an estate planning attorney to review and update your estate plan.)  However, the more relevant point here is that your life insurance is not a probate asset, meaning it will pass outside of the probate process to whoever you named as your beneficiary.  So, yes, your son will receive the proceeds of your insurance policy when you die. 

Also, it is worth pointing out here, for other readers who may be in a slightly different situation, that the legal concepts discussed above will also apply to situations where a spouse leaves an ex-spouse as a beneficiary of an insurance policy or other asset, such as a retirement plan.  In fact, the Massachusetts Appeals Court recently decided a case on this point and held that the automatic revocation provisions found in Massachusetts law do not apply to ERISA-governed retirement accounts. See Langevin v. McMorrow (No. 10-P-1591, June 20, 2011), The Court allowed a former spouse to keep her late ex-husband’s pension account, because he had retained her as his first named beneficiary.  The court reached this result even though the couple had divorce over twenty years earlier.  Yet another reason to have you attorney review your estate plan and other financial arrangements after divorce. 


Massachusetts recently adopted the Uniform Probate Code.  the UPC broadens the divorce rule discussed above (divorce revokes existing wills).  Now non probate transfers are also revoked by the divorce, such as life insurance policies or trusts (where the trustor has the power to amend the trust at the time of the divorce or annulment, are also revoked.  Similarly any bequests made in the will to relatives of the ex-spouse and any appointments of those relatives as Personal Representative or Trustee may also be revoked.  This can get a bit confusing and drives home a point made in other posts on this forum:  Parties should update their estate plan with the help of an attorney after a divorce or annulment.

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