Life Insurance and Divorce: Protecting Your Family’s Future

If you have found your way to my blog, I'm guessing your marriage did not go as planned. Let's face it, in life, there are a lot of things that don’t work out as planned. One of the most trying examples is when you plan to spend the rest of your life with someone, and subsequently, file for divorce. Divorce can take a significant financial and emotional toll on a couple, their children, and other family members. In the midst of immediate financial and legal concerns, couples also need to consider ways to help protect their individual financial futures and that of their children’s in the event of death. This brings me to our topic of life insurance and divorce. Life insurance may offer a solution.

How Life Insurance Protects Your Family

While I always bring up the topic of life insurance during the course of mediation, I find that few want to have an in-depth conversation on the topic. Let’s take a look at several different scenarios. After a divorce, if the non-custodial parent who is paying spousal and/or child support were to die, then the custodial parent may be unable to maintain the children’s lifestyle or save for a future college education. On the other hand, if the custodial parent were to die, the non-custodial parent may be unable to afford childcare expenses. Consequently, divorcing couples may want to consider making life insurance policies part of the divorce decree.

Life Insurance and Divorce: What are the options?

The custodial parent may want to purchase a life insurance policy on the non-custodial parent, but if not, transferring ownership and beneficiary arrangements on an existing policy may be another option. The custodial parent may request spousal or child support increases to cover the cost of policy premiums. If the non-custodial parent remains the policy owner, the divorce decree can include arrangements to ensure that the custodial parent is named as the irrevocable beneficiary and that he or she receives ongoing proof that the payments are made and the policy remains in force.

The non-custodial parent may wish to keep the policies he or she already has to protect other financial interests. To ensure protection for children from a previous marriage, the non-custodial parent may consider purchasing a new policy on his or her life, naming the former spouse as the owner and beneficiary. If this is done before or during the divorce proceedings, gift tax will not be owed. 

Life Insurance and Divorce: What about existing policies?

For existing policies, it is important to remember that the insurance company must be notified of any beneficiary changes. A will cannot be used for this purpose. In addition, should the insured remarry and the policy names the “husband” or “wife” of the insured as the beneficiary, the new spouse may receive the proceeds. If the insured does not remarry and the same policy language is in force, then the proceeds may be paid to the secondary beneficiary. If the insured’s estate is named as the new beneficiary, insurance proceeds may be delayed by the probate process. If minor children are named as beneficiaries, additional problems may arise, as insurance companies generally do not pay minors directly. For this reason, you may want to consider creating a trust for minor children and naming the trust as the beneficiary of the policy proceeds.

Divorce is rarely easy, but with a well-planned strategy, the short- and long-term financial needs of your loved ones can be met. If you need assistance aligning your divorce agreement with your short- and long-term financial goals, schedule a call today. We meet with clients both virtually throughout the United States and locally in Cleveland, OH. Let us help you take control of your financial future.

Great Lakes Divorce Financial Solutions, LLC does not offer insurance products. We do, however, offer comprehensive financial planning to determine if you have the appropriate level of coverage and would be happy to make a referral if you are in need of additional protection.

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