If you have an estate plan in place, you’ll likely be making some changes to it as soon as your divorce is final — if not sooner. Chances are you no longer want your soon-to-be ex to have powers of attorney over your health care and finances should you become incapacitated, for example.
However, even if you don’t have an estate plan, you’ve likely named your spouse as your beneficiary for your retirement accounts, life insurance policy and other assets. The good news is that in Texas, unlike in some other states, spouses are automatically removed as beneficiaries once a divorce is final. Therefore, if you forget to do this, your ex won’t inherit these assets when you pass away.
If you didn’t designate a secondary, or contingent, beneficiary, those assets will go to your estate upon your death. If you don’t have an estate plan designating how your assets will be divided, that division could be determined by a probate judge in accordance with state laws.
That’s one reason why it’s always wise to designate not just a primary beneficiary but a contingent beneficiary on all of these accounts. Even if you forget to remove your ex-spouse, that secondary beneficiary will automatically inherit those assets.
What if you still want your former spouse to be the primary beneficiary for these assets? Maybe you’ve even agreed to that as part of your divorce settlement. You will need to notify the institution or company that holds the asset. They may have different procedures, so make sure that you follow their instructions and that it’s clear that you want your now-former spouse to be the primary beneficiary.
Don’t make any changes to your estate plan or any beneficiary designations without first talking to your Austin family law attorney. You don’t want to do anything that would make you noncompliant with your divorce agreement.