Many states -- including Utah -- have enacted laws (Utah Code Section 75-2-802) that automatically terminate death-beneficiary designations (e.g., in life insurance policies, IRAs, 401k’s, annuities) upon the divorce of the asset owner and that person’s spouse. This rule only applies to death-beneficiary designations that were revocable when created. The law tries to accomplish what state legislatures assume most divorced couples would want. The automatic termination does not apply to designations that were created as irrevocable designations. However, the law doesn’t answer two key questions:
1) What if the asset owner dies before the divorce becomes final?
2) Will the asset owner name a new beneficiary before he or she dies?
It's a good idea for a divorcing person to meet with an estate planning attorney while in the divorcing process. Large sums of money could end up in the wrong hands if the divorcing spouse dies unexpectedly.