Divorce proceedings can be a lengthy process involving the division of assets and family time agreements. During this time, a temporary injunction is put in place, preventing either party from disposing of marital assets. However, what happens if one party changes beneficiary designations while the divorce case is pending but dies before the divorce decree is issued?
In the case of Arnold and Jacquelyn, Jacquelyn changed the primary beneficiaries of her IRA account to her adult children while the divorce case was pending. She also named her children as beneficiaries of a new bank account with a transfer-on-death feature. When Jacquelyn passed away before the divorce was finalized, her children received the assets, which Arnold claimed as marital property.
The trial court ruled in Arnold’s favor, citing Jacquelyn’s violation of the automatic temporary injunction in the divorce case. However, the case was appealed, and the Supreme Court of Oklahoma issued an instant opinion.
The court reasoned that a divorce case is purely personal, and if one party dies before the final decree, the cause of action terminates, and the court loses jurisdiction over the parties. As a result, the court could not enforce the injunction after the divorce case was abated, and Jacquelyn’s new beneficiary designations were upheld.
Although there is a district split on whether the court can enforce the temporary injunction after the loss of jurisdiction, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma joins the group that maintains that jurisdiction is lost. Therefore, it is essential to seek legal counsel before making any changes to beneficiary designations during divorce proceedings, as it can have significant implications.
If you are going through a divorce and have questions about how to protect your assets, contact King Law Offices at (888) 748-KING (5464) to schedule an initial consultation. Our experienced attorneys can provide you with the guidance and representation you need to navigate your legal journey with peace of mind.