Sep 132012

A recently enacted Florida law would nullify the designation of a spouse as the beneficiary of non-probate assets such as life insurance policies, qualified annuities, individual retirement accounts (IRA), employee benefit plans, and payable on death (POD) or transfer on death (TOD) accounts, upon the dissolution or annulment of a marriage.

Florida Statute 732.703, effective July 1, 2012, states that “a designation made by or on behalf of the decedent providing for the payment or transfer at death of an interest in an asset to or for the benefit of the decedent’s former spouse is void as of the time the decedent’s marriage was judicially dissolved or declared invalid by court order prior to the decedent’s death, if the designation was made prior to the dissolution or court order.  The decedent’s interest in the asset shall pass as if the decedent’s former spouse predeceased the decedent.”

The statute does not apply:

  • Where prohibited by federal law;
  • If the beneficiary designation is made after the dissolution of the marriage;
  • To the extent that a will or trust says otherwise, or where the spouse has rendered legal services to a trust for which they are to be compensated;
  • Where the terms of the dissolution order dictate otherwise;
  • Where the designation is irrevocable under the law;
  • Where the instrument directing disposition is governed by the laws of a state other than Florida;
  • Where the asset is held jointly with the spouse such as in joint tenancy with rights of survivorship;
  • If the decedent and the ex-spouse remarry and are married at the time of death;
  • To state-administered retirement plans under chapter 121.

The statute does not affect the ownership interest of any purchaser for value, the rights of any creditor of the former spouse, or the rights of any other person entitled to such interest.  The statute also does not affect the rights and duties of any insurance company, financial institution, trustee, administrator, or other third party.

While this statute is certainly a step in the right direction towards protecting unknowing individuals after a divorce, it is always a good idea to have your estate plan reviewed by a qualified Florida estate planning attorney after any life-changing event, including the dissolution of a marriage.  This is really the only way you can know for sure how your assets will be distributed when you die.  Statutes are open to judicial interpretation, a well-constructed estate plan should not be.

If you have recently gone through a life-changing event and need to review your estate plan, contact an estate planning Attorney in Jacksonville who can assist you.