Skip to Content
Leaders in Family Matters

Revising Wills and Beneficiaries During Divorce in Nevada

Couple and Rings

Revising Wills and Beneficiaries During Divorce in Nevada

A crucial issue that often comes up in a pending divorce is the question of revising Wills and Beneficiary Designations.

When a marriage dissolves, can a person alter their Will or remove their soon-to-be ex-spouse from beneficiary designations? The answer, as with many legal matters, is nuanced and dependent on various factors.

Firstly, let's address revising a will during divorce proceedings. In many jurisdictions, divorce automatically revokes certain provisions in a Will that relate to the former spouse. Nevada is no different. NRS 133.115. Life insurance designations to an ex-spouse are also automatically revoked in Nevada. NRS 111.781. However, until the divorce is finalized, the Will and beneficiary designations remain valid, and any provisions not automatically revoked may still apply. Therefore, it's prudent for individuals navigating divorce to revisit and revise their Wills and confirm what may be changed on other important assets. This ensures that their assets are distributed according to their current wishes, rather than potentially outdated arrangements that include an estranged spouse.

Revising a Will during divorce involves more than just cutting the soon-to-be ex-spouse out of the document. It requires careful consideration and, ideally, consultation with legal professionals specializing in estate planning. Divorce can significantly alter an individual's financial and familial circumstances, warranting a thorough review of how assets should be distributed. Moreover, individuals may wish to appoint new executors or guardians for their children, especially if custody arrangements change post-divorce.

Furthermore, removing a spouse from beneficiary designations merits attention. Many assets, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and investment accounts, allow individuals to designate beneficiaries. These designations bypass probate and directly transfer assets to the named beneficiaries upon the individual's death. Consequently, it's crucial to update these designations to reflect post-divorce preferences accurately.

However, the ability to remove a spouse as a beneficiary during divorce proceedings is not as clear cut. In Nevada, a divorcing party can request an automatic restraining orders upon filing for divorce, which prohibits altering beneficiary designations without the other party's consent or a court order. Violating these orders can have legal consequences, including potential penalties or court sanctions. Therefore, individuals contemplating changes to beneficiary designations should familiarize themselves with local laws and seek legal guidance if unsure.

While removing a spouse as a beneficiary may seem straightforward, it's essential to assess the broader financial implications and potential conflicts. For instance, if children from the marriage are designated as contingent beneficiaries, removing the spouse could inadvertently impact their inheritance or cause guardianship over the estate, increasing costs and judicial oversight.

There is also the issue of potential unintended consequences when revising beneficiary designations. For example, if a retirement account names the spouse as the primary beneficiary and children as contingent beneficiaries, removing the spouse could inadvertently trigger adverse tax consequences or complicate the distribution of assets. In community property states like Nevada, spouses generally have equal ownership rights to property acquired during the marriage. While this concept primarily applies to assets acquired during the marriage, there may be implications for retirement accounts and beneficiary designations.

Often, retirement accounts are considered community property or partially community property when contributions were made during the marriage. Therefore, changing beneficiary designations on such accounts without the consent of the spouse could potentially impact the spouse's community property rights and may be prohibited altogether. Additionally, some retirement accounts, particularly those governed by federal laws such as ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act), may require spousal consent for certain beneficiary designations, especially if the spouse's right to survivor benefits would be affected. This requirement is more common in employer-sponsored retirement plans like 401(k)s. Therefore, it's advisable to consult with financial advisors or estate planning professionals to navigate these complexities effectively.

In conclusion, revising Wills and beneficiary designations during divorce requires careful attention to be done correctly. While divorce automatically revokes certain provisions in a Will pertaining to the former spouse, proactive revision is advisable to ensure alignment with current intentions. A person is permitted to leave his or her one-half share of the community to someone other than his or her current spouse and can put that desire in place in a Will while a divorce is pending. Similarly, removing a spouse from beneficiary designations necessitates compliance with legal requirements and consideration of broader financial implications. By navigating these matters thoughtfully and seeking appropriate professional guidance, individuals can safeguard their assets and ensure their wishes are honored amidst the upheaval of divorce.