There is nothing funny about divorce: But there are good divorce jokes. A favorite of mine is Woody Allen’s:
“For a while we pondered whether to take a vacation or get a divorce. We decided that a trip to Bermuda is over in two weeks, but a divorce is something you always have.”
As a divorce mediator, I not only find the humor in this quote, but the truth. The terms of your divorce affect the rest of your life. And often, to protect you and your ex, they also should extend beyond life!
Death Benefits and their Role in Divorce:
The Popular Path – Life Insurance: Child support and/or maintenance (alimony) are crucial payments that parties receive over many years. If the payor suddenly dies, you are left without the support you counted on.
To compensate, the payor typically takes out a life insurance policy that covers the amount of child support and/or maintenance owed. In a mediated Separation Agreement, parties play fair – and the payor usually gets to reduce the amount of life insurance as his or her support obligations shrinks.
Of course your ex-spouse is the beneficiary of life insurance covering maintenanc. But unless a child is eighteen or older, the child can’t directly be paid life insurance proceeds. Couples in mediation often agree to make their ex-spouse the custodian of their children’s life insurance with the children named as beneficiary.
Other ways to Protect Yourself in Death:
• In Retirement funds: In your separation agreement, become the named beneficiary for your portion of your spouse’s 401K, IRA or 403B until the final judgment of divorce, so that if your spouse dies between the time you’ve signed your agreement and the divorce is granted, you are still entitled to your share.
• With Monthly Retirement Checks: If your ex will be getting a monthly retirement check for life, there are usually options in a retirement plan that allow the non-retirement spouse to keep receiving these checks after the spouse’s death. Make sure you both speak with the plan’s supervisor.
• On Home Turf: If you and your ex plan on being co-owners of your home after your divorce, decide what you want to do if one of you dies. If you want to each inherit the other’s half, talk to a real estate attorney to make sure you have the type of deed that conveys this right automatically.
Talking about divorce is tough. Throw in the subject of death, and no one would really count this as fun dinner conversation! But mediation helps you talk about difficult topics, and in the end prepares you for whatever the future holds.