How To Avoid Inadvertently Leaving Money To Your Ex Spouse

Odds are that you’re not pleased with your ex. The last thing you want to do is leave your ex-spouse your money if you die. But it happens all the time. And it’s not just your most recent ex, you could end up leaving money to your first wife or your second husband. It’s enough to make any adult shudder.

It’s quite easy to assure that this doesn’t happen:

1. Review your will. If you haven’t rewritten your will since your last divorce, it will be necessary to make some changes. Sit down with your attorney and create a new will. You can even make your own will if your finances aren’t too complicated.

  • Be sure to destroy all copies of your previous will and let the appropriate people know the location of your current will. Of course, your attorney will have a copy. Ensure your family knows the name of your attorney.

2. An up-to-date will isn’t sufficient. A will can decide who will receive your home, baseball card collection, or the velvet prints in the basement. Not all accounts and insurance policies are included in the probate process. This is where your money can slip through the cracks. A will is not enough.

3. Make a list of every account you have. This includes retirement accounts and pension plans. You should be getting quarterly statements, at least, from each account. Take your time and track down every account.

4. Make a list of all of your insurance policies. Life insurance, annuities, and disability insurance are the primary culprits. Also, check with your human resources department. You may not be aware of all the benefits provided to you.

5. Determine the beneficiaries for each account. List all the beneficiaries for the above accounts. This is the person that will gain those assets upon your death. Again, what your will declares doesn’t matter in this case. Avoid relying on your memory. Check with the bank, insurance company, brokerage firm, or your employer as appropriate.

6. Make the necessary changes. Changing your beneficiaries is easy. Ask the company for a change of beneficiary form. Fill it out and turn it in. It’s that simple. You may be able to do it online in some cases. In general, your signature will be necessary.

7. Review your accounts regularly and after any significant changes in your life. Aside from a quick annual review, take the time to review your will and beneficiaries after marriage, divorce, birth of a child, the death of any beneficiary, or moving to another state. These can be exciting or challenging times. It’s easy to forget to review your beneficiaries.


Unless you’re a highly evolved spiritual being, you’re not excited at the prospect of leaving your money and assets to your ex-spouse. Inadvertently leaving money to an ex-spouse is a common occurrence. Spend an hour and review your insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other investment accounts. Ensure that the right people will inherit your assets when you pass.

Avoid waiting until some undefined date in the future. Your health might be great today, but that doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself in an auto accident tomorrow. Be responsible and take action today. Just imagine your ex-wife taking her boyfriend on a Caribbean cruise with your money. Or your ex-husband taking his new wife to Paris with the money from your 401(k).

On a positive note, they’ll probably make a toast to you. Take care of this today for greater peace of mind.

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