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When can an ex-spouse receive your life insurance or death benefits in Ohio?

Posted by attorney Elliott Stapleton

In Ohio, there are two potential ways an ex-spouse can receive death benefits if designations are not updated: Beneficiary Designation in an ERISA plan The United States Supreme Court has held that a deceased participant’s benefits under an ERISA pension plan were properly distributed to decedent's ex-spouse beneficiary. This distribution was made even though the ex-spouse waived all rights to the plan in the divorce decree and state law, which was preempted by ERISA, would have removed the ex-spouse from the designation. Kennedy v. Plan Adm'r for DuPont Sav. and Inv. Plan, 129 S.Ct. 865, No. 07-636 (2009). Life Insurance Beneficiary Designations prior to May 31, 1990 In Ohio, upon divorce, ORC 1339.63 operates to automatically revoke a spouse as beneficiary to an insurance policy if owned by the other spouse. But the effective date of this statute began on May 31, 1990. Any person who owns an insurance policy created before May 31, 1990 must review his or her documents to ensure they are up-to-date. If the ex-spouse is listed at death, they will receive the benefits. In re Estate of Holycross 112 Ohio St.3d 203, 204 (2007).

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