Your divorce is over and your lawyer sent you a certified copy of the final divorce decree. Now what? Here is a checklist of some items you should address:

1. Change of Name. If you have had your maiden name or former married name restored as a result of a divorce, contact the Social Security Office, Voter’s Registration, and Missouri Department of Revenue to update your information and receive new cards. You will also need to change it on your bank accounts, investments, and life insurance. Contact each institution to find out the best way to make the change.

2. Account titles. Be sure to check how each checking, savings, and all investment accounts are titled. Do not keep your former spouse’s name on your accounts. If you want a co-owner, name a sibling, parent, or adult child, but be aware of who owns this property upon your death. Warning: Do not put a minor child’s name on your account as a co-owner or as a beneficiary.

3. Beneficiary Designations?

Bank Accounts: If you own an account solely in your name, you may want to name a beneficiary on your account since any property owned by you without a co-owner or beneficiary will need to go through Probate. This beneficiary designation is called “Pay on Death” or “POD”. That will avoid probate upon your death. The funds are paid directly to the designated beneficiary. While you are alive, your beneficiary will have no ownership rights, but upon your death, he/she will receive these funds by showing a certified death certificate to the institution. They will then be the owner of the funds. You must set up the POD designation directly with the institution. Do not name a minor child as a beneficiary. You can name an adult to serve as the child’s Trustee until a designated age is reached, if the institution will allow it.

Motor Vehicles: The same is true with motor vehicles. Be sure to remove your former spouse’s name from your motor vehicle title. This includes cars, motorcycles, motor homes, and trailers. In order to avoid probate, you can designate a beneficiary on the title. This beneficiary designation is called “Transfer on Death” or “TOD”. You must set up the TOD designation directly through a Missouri Department of Revenue office.

Life Insurance: Be sure to review the beneficiaries on these as well. In Missouri, if you forget to remove your former spouse as beneficiary on life insurance, state statute will prevent him/her from receiving it UNLESS the divorce decree specifically requires it AND the beneficiary is re-named after the divorce is final. However, if there is no beneficiary remaining, the funds will be paid to your estate and will have to go through the Probate Court, either through your Will or to your heirs under state statute.

Retirement accounts: This can be tricky. In some instances, the Missouri statute which would otherwise not allow a former spouse to receive property as your beneficiary, will not apply (ex. ERISA Plans and motor vehicles). Be careful to review your beneficiary designation on all retirement accounts to be sure the named beneficiary is the person you want to receive this property when you die.

*If any account, vehicle, or life insurance is not in a living trust and does not has a beneficiary named, the property will become an asset of your estate upon your death. This requires that a probate estate.

We seek to help you through the legal problem confronting you. The first step is an easy one: call us for a free telephone consultation at (636) 861-1111 to speak with our Ballwin family and criminal law attorneys. You can also contact us online. We accept Visa and MasterCard.

West County Family Law is located in Ballwin, Missouri, and serves the cities of St. Louis, Chesterfield, Fenton, Valley Park, Clayton, Creve Coeur, Kirkwood, Des Peres, Webster Groves, Manchester, Eureka, Hillsboro, Maryland Heights, Town and Country, Ellisville, Frontenac, Wildwood, Ladue and Crestwood. We also serve other communities in St. Louis County, Jefferson County, St. Charles County, West County and South County.