When a couple gets married, each makes their various financial accounts payable to each other.  In fact, to designate someone else as the beneficiary on a life insurance or retirement account requires the signature of approval from a spouse.  Unfortunately, about half of the marriages in our country today end in divorce.  When a couple divorces, they usually change the beneficiary to their financial and other accounts.

What happens, though, when a divorce is finalized, but a former spouse dies before he or she has updated their wills or account beneficiary designations?  Does the former spouse still inherit under the will and payable on death accounts?  In the past, this answer would be yes; however, recently the legislature has just changed Florida law to void many, but not all, types of inheritances by an ex-spouse.  

One key section in the new law, voids any provision in a will that mentions the ex-spouse, unless the will or final judgment provides otherwise.  This change to the law, protects divorced former spouses from any oversight in updating their intended inheritance beneficiaries.  The law also allows for those former spouses who may want their ex-spouse to inherit from them after divorce.  Another change is now the law recognizes that this type of inheritance may be used as a tool in a property division.  One new section of the Florida statutes now voids any gift in a will or beneficiary designation to an ex-spouse which is made after the divorce is final.

These changes will apply to the majority of financial accounts, life  insurance, annuities, employee benefit plans, retirement accounts, payable on death accounts and securities accounts. 

There are several exemptions to the new law. 

Such as where:

  • federal law applies and provides otherwise
  • the beneficiary designation is made after the divorce
  • the beneficiary is a will or trust
  • the final judgment requires the ex to manage the asset for their children
  • the ex could not legally terminate the beneficiary designation
  • the exes remarry

To read more on the changes to the law, go to Florida statutes, section 732.507 and section 732.703.