When getting divorced, make sure that you complete all change of beneficiary forms so that they accurately reflect what you want to accomplish.
There are several cases where a divorce agreement stated specifically that the divorced spouse would not receive any retirement or insurance benefits but the decedent spouse failed to change the actual beneficiary forms on the particular assets. In these cases despite the contrary intention of the decedent spouse, the divorced spouse received all the retirement and life insurance.
When the death benefits are federal benefits, the federal forms on designation of beneficiaries control. In one case, the decedent spouse completed the necessary form designating his new spouse but did not have it properly witnessed. The federal form required a proper witness. Therefore, the designation was declared invalid and the divorced spouse received all the benefits.
Do not rely upon language in your agreement or the final order of divorce. Make sure that the beneficiary designation forms are completed properly and accurately.