When you go through a divorce you long for that day when the Judge finally signs your final judgment of dissolution of marriage and closes your case so that you can focus on rebuilding your life and moving on with your other pursuits. Usually folks tend to look forward to life “after divorce”, to the new opportunities, new challenges and new relationships. The last thing that you want to worry about is your now ex-spouse.

However, until July 1, 2012, this type of “forward looking” approach of looking at your newly single status as an opportunity to perhaps do it again but do it “better” and “smarter” and of trying to erase all memories of your former spouse might have made your former spouse a beneficiary of your non-probate or non-trust assets. In other words, until July 1, 2012, it was possible for your former spouse to be a beneficiary of your life insurance policy, your pay-on-death accounts, and your individual retirement accounts.

You might ask yourself, “how is that possible?” You just got divorced – you are free! Your money is your money and your former spouse is as much entitled to your assets as a stranger.

Prior to July 1, 2012, your divorce invalidated only your will provisions and revocable trust provisions for the benefit of your former spouse unless your final judgment (which usually incorporated your marital settlement agreement) stated otherwise.

This means that if you had a last will leaving property to your spouse and when you got divorced you never changed your will, the law treated your ex-spouse as having predeceased you, the testator. The same was true for the revocable trusts.

However, effective July 1, 2012, the new Florida law now addresses beneficiary designations on non-probate or non-trust assets. If you get divorced after July 1, 2012, your “forward looking” approach will no longer have an inadvertent effect of entitling your former spouse to receive your assets under beneficiary designation of your life insurance policy, or your pay-on-death account, or your individual retirement account, just to name a few. The new law, Section 732.703, Florida Statutes, voids that designation when your marriage is terminated by divorce or annulment, unless an exception applies.

Although this statute has filled in some gaps, the new statute still leaves a lot of assets and accounts untouched. Therefore, it is still crucial to revisit all of your estate planning documents after you get divorced. Give your estate planning attorney and financial adviser a call to ensure that your estate planning documents reflect your post-divorce goals.

For one thing, the new statute does not apply to assets held as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. So don’t forget to review these accounts when you revisit your other estate planning documents after your divorce is final.

For other exceptions and complete statutory language, please review Section 732.703, Florida Statutes, in its entirety.

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