Family Law Attorneys

Changing Beneficiaries

When you were in the throes of wedded bliss, you automatically named one beneficiary on all your accounts. If you died, your spouse would get your bank assets, retirement accounts, investments, life insurance proceeds, and annuities. After your divorce you may need to update or change your accounts to reflect the Court Orders.

First, you need to contact the holders of your accounts to find out how to update the beneficiary designation. Then, you either need to put in new beneficiaries or remove your spouse’s name, or that person inherits your assets if you die before the divorce.

Once you file for divorce then you won’t be able to make any of these changes because Massachusetts applies an Automatic Temporary Restraining Order (ATRO), which states, in part:

Neither party shall sell, transfer, encumber, conceal, assign, remove or in any way dispose of any property, real or personal, belonging to or acquired by, either party … Neither party shall incur any further debts that would burden the credit of the other party,

In other words, you can’t change beneficiaries, hide or spend assets, or buy any property until the divorce becomes final, or your spouse gives written consent. You’ll still be able to use accounts to pay living expenses or run your business. You can also still update your financial and healthcare powers of attorney at any time during the process, although you want to do this as soon as you file the papers.

Your best course of action before considering any proceedings is to contact us, your divorce lawyer, so we can explain all your options.