Illinois residents should be aware of the importance of updating documents such as life insurance beneficiary forms when there are major life changes. Forgetting this step can have complicated legal consequences and lead to additional expenses later on.

When a person without a will dies, an ex-spouse who had been the beneficiary on the life insurance policy could claim and receive the money. This is true even if the deceased person’s intent had been for other relatives to receive it. Such was the case in Life Assurance Co. of Canada vs. Jackson. In that case, the man’s original beneficiary was his uncle. In the man’s divorce decree, however, he named his daughter as beneficiary but did not change the form officially. When the man passed away, the uncle received the insurance money. The daughter sued and won. The insurance company appealed, but the appeals court agreed with the original sentence, basically declaring that the divorce decree, which is a court-issued document, was above the insurance policy, which was a private contract.

In such cases, the consequences can be even more complicated because getting back that money is not always possible, particularly if the receiving party either hides or spends it before it can be claimed back. Family law issues are delicate, and it is important to follow up with all paperwork and make the appropriate updates necessary when there are life changes.

Statutes regarding family law issues are different in every state. Illinois residents who might be concerned about upcoming family changes might benefit from the guidance of a lawyer. Legal counsel can explain all the local legislation and help the client file the correct paperwork.