A recent Supreme Court case illustrates the importance of regularly reviewing beneficiary designations for life insurance and retirement accounts.
In the case, Warren named Judy, his wife in 1996, as the sole beneficiary of his $125,000 life insurance policy. In 1998 they divorced, and Warren married Jacqueline in 2002. In the glow of blissful weddedness, Warren forgot to change the beneficiary to Jacqueline. Warren died in 2008, and Judy received the $125,000 from her former husband’s policy. Jacqueline sued under a law in her state that revokes a beneficiary designation in any contract that awards a death benefit to a former spouse, where the decedent has remarried.
The Supreme Court sided with Judy and let her keep the money, saying that Warren’s selection of a beneficiary could not be overridden by any state law. Judy was happy to have the $125,000. Jacqueline was morose. Warren was gone, but he could have saved the survivors some grief had he snapped out of his bliss long enough to sign a new beneficiary form.
– John Davis