The Important of Beneficiary Designations – The case of Life Insurance paying to an Ex-Spouse

A recent California Case highlights the importance of making sure you review your estate plan and beneficiary designations every couple of years. The beneficiary listed on retirement plans and Life Insurance policies supersede anything your write in your Will or Trust.

This was reinforced in a recent case where an Ex-Spouse received the life insurance proceeds of her former spouse after his death because he never took her name off of the policy, even though he wrote in his Will that he didn’t want anything to pass to her.

Be sure to check your beneficiary designations to ensure they are up-to-date with your current intent.

Here are the facts to the case mentioned above:

Estate of Post

Decedent Jerome Norman Post purchased a life insurance policy during his lifetime and named his then-spouse, Angela Post, as the primary beneficiary, and his sons from a prior marriage, Kenneth Post and Eric Post, as the contingent beneficiaries. Decedent was divorced at the time of his death, but he had not changed the beneficiary designation on his life insurance policy to remove his former spouse as the primary beneficiary. He had executed a codicil to his will shortly before his death expressing his strong desire that his former spouse receive nothing from him after his death, including by beneficiary designation. Decedent’s sons sought an Order designating them as the rightful beneficiaries of the decedent’s life insurance policy under Probate Code Sections 5040 and 9611. The appeals court found in favor of the former spouse and she was entitled to receive the life insurance proceeds.

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