Legal Blog

Marital Agreements and Beneficiary Designations

It’s been years since Anna and Bill divorced. Still, Anna can recall the many disputes that arose before, during, and after their time together: the conversations about whether they needed a prenuptial agreement, the arguments about their eventual postnuptial agreement, the messy divisions of assets and debt, and so on. At one point, the situation became so exasperating that Anna decided to waive her rights to an equitable distribution of marital property. It was easier to walk away than to continue negotiating ad nauseam.

In the time since Anna has moved on. She’s led a comfortable and fulfilling life. She’s now in her 60s and retired. The marriage is a distant memory.

But then, one day, she gets a letter in the mail: Bill has passed away and she’ll be receiving the remainder of his 401(k).

Cue the ensuing legal battle with Bill’s family.

Believe it or not, this kind of scenario happens frequently. An individual names their spouse as the beneficiary of their retirement assets at death. The couple then gets a divorce. If the individual never remarries and neglects to name a new beneficiary, their assets go to the former spouse — even when the terms of another agreement seem to indicate otherwise. Beneficiary designations supersede prenups, postnups, separation agreements, and even wills. And when such designations remain unaltered, conflicts can arise after death between exes, current spouses, and other family members.

Are your beneficiary and estate planning documents up to date? If you aren’t sure or would like to review everything with an experienced legal advisor, our team can help. Offit Kurman is uniquely positioned to provide legal services in complementary categories, such as Family Law and Estates and Trusts. Learn more about our comprehensive legal services here.

ABOUT CHERYL L. HEPFER | 240.507.1752

Cheryl Hepfer is a highly-regarded attorney who has practiced family law for more than 40 years. She has been rated by her peers and is listed in Best Lawyers in America and as a top lawyer in the Washingtonian, Bethesda Magazine, and Super Lawyers. She is a past president of both the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and the International Academy of Family Lawyers.








ABOUT SANDRA A. BROOKS | 240.507.1716

As a family law attorney, Sandra (Sandy) Brooks’ practice focuses on a wide range of aspects in regards to family law. She dedicates her time to assisting clients in domestic law matters including divorce, child custody and visitation, family mediation, spousal and child support, property division, and division of retirement benefits. Other matters that fall under her jurisdiction as a family law attorney include tax consequences of divorce, mediation, prenuptial and post-nuptial agreements, negotiating and drafting of separation agreements, domestic litigation, and post-judgment proceedings.






Offit Kurman is one of the fastest-growing full-service law firms in the United States. With over 200 attorneys in 14 offices that stretch from New York to North Carolina, we represent privately-held companies and families of wealth throughout their business life cycles. Our mission is to provide our clients with “The Better Way” to grow their organizations, protect their businesses’ and families’ wealth, and resolve their most challenging legal conflicts. In addition to our quality of attorneys and breadth of legal services, Offit Kurman is distinguished by our unique operational structure, which encourages collaboration rather than internal competition. The same approach that makes our firm attractive to legal practitioners gives clients unlimited access to experienced counsel in every area of the law. Trust, Knowledge, Confidence—in a partner, that’s perfect.

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