Sometimes Even Death Does Not Get Rid of an ‘Ex’

June 8th, 2018

Sometimes Even Death Does Not Get Rid of an ‘Ex’.

By:  James L. Nelson and Heather Rooney McBride

The Missouri Court of Appeals recently issued, the facts of which confirm that sometimes your ex will be with you even after you die.  In the Estate of McWilliams v. Mayer, SD35007, involved an ex-wife whose name was still on the title of a boat, motor and two trailers as a Transfer-on-Death (“TOD”) beneficiary after a divorce.  2018 WL 1904351 (Mo. App. S.D. April 23, 2018).  The husband was awarded the boat, motor, and two trailers in the divorce; however, the husband died before he could have the ex-wife removed from the title as the TOD beneficiary.  Despite the divorce, the ex-wife claimed the boat, motor, and two trailers as her property because of the TOD provisions on the titles.

Missouri has a special statutory provision which addresses beneficiary designations after divorce. RSMo. §461.051 provides:

If, after an owner makes a beneficiary designation, the owner’s marriage is dissolved or annulled, any provision of the beneficiary designation in favor of the owner’s former spouse or a relative of the owner’s former spouse is revoked on the date the marriage is dissolved or annulled, whether or not the beneficiary designation refers to marital status.  The beneficiary designation shall be given effect as if the former spouse or relative of the former spouse had disclaimed the revoked provision.

Based on RSMo. § 461.051, the Court in McWilliams ruled that the TOD beneficiary designation was revoked such that the boat, motor, and two trailers were part of the decedent’s estate rather than property of his ex-wife.  However, the fact that the titles had not been changed, nor the estate plan fully updated, resulted in the estate incurring significant legal fees that could have been avoided.

If you have recently gone through a divorce, or are going through a divorce, it is a good time to create or review and revise your estate plan.  The attorneys at Rooney McBride & Smith, LLC can help with your divorce or modifications thereof, and we also have attorneys whose law practices are devoted to estate planning.  During divorce, it can be difficult to think about the future; however, it is critical that, as part of or immediately following your divorce, you plan for disposition of your property, who should serve as guardian and conservator of your children, and end-of-life issues.

If you would like assistance with preparing a Will, Revocable or Irrevocable Trust, Medical Power of Attorney, Advanced Directive, and/or Financial (Durable) Power of Attorney, please contact our experienced estate planning attorneys today.