Often, people think of property in terms of tangible items, and this is understandable. It’s important not to overlook non-tangible property however – not only things like retirement and pension accounts, but also things like insurance policies, which have definite value, and which must be addressed as you prepare to move forward down two separate paths. As you prepare to negotiate and divide your property during the divorce, it can be helpful to maintain a detailed inventory of all of your existing insurance policies, as well as all of the designated beneficiaries on those policies.
Depending upon the particular circumstances one spouse may be required to maintain the other spouse on their insurance policy for any number of reasons, so it is also important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced attorney as to your circumstances before making any final decisions one way or the other. In addition, as you prepare for divorce, it can be helpful to begin the process of obtaining quotes for new policies if you will be canceling your old ones. Doing so will save you time and headache in the long run.
Many rely on COBRA coverage after a divorce until they can arrange for a new policy. It is, however, always a wise decision to contact your insurance company to discuss the divorce, as well as what steps might need to be taken (and what costs will be incurred) to continue the coverage. It should also be noted that in some settlement agreements as part of the property division between the parties, one spouse agrees to cover the full or partial COBRA payments for the spouse and/or children who were formerly named on the regular insurance policy.
If one or both spouses have life insurance policies, the beneficiaries and terms of those policies will need to be reviewed and possibly negotiated during the property division process. It can be helpful, after an absolute divorce is granted, to provide the divorce decree to your insurance company and instruct them to notify all beneficiaries of any policy changes or missed payments. This can help to ensure that the policy premiums continue to be maintained, and that the policy remains active, and up-to-date with the appropriate beneficiary information.
It can be helpful to consider how the insurance policy might fit into your overall estate plan, as life insurance proceeds are generally included in the estate. Some choose to use a helpful planning tool called an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust, or ILIT. An attorney who understands family law and estate planning will be able to advise you as to whether a tool like this might be helpful in your particular circumstances.
If you and/or your spouse do not have life insurance policies, this does not necessarily mean that you should entirely ignore this issue during your divorce. In some situations, couples who are divorcing and do not have insurance are actually ordered by the court to acquire insurance. Typically, this occurs in a situation where the divorcing couple has children, and one spouse earns significantly more than the other. In that situation, the court will often order the spouse who earns more income to obtain a life insurance policy naming the ex-spouse as a beneficiary in order to ensure future financial security in the place of standard support obligations if the higher-earning spouse passes away.
Contact Adkins Law if you need to speak with an experienced family law attorney to arrange a consultation.