ElderLaw News — The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. — MD, VA, DC
ElderLaw News

ElderLaw News is a weekly e-newsletter that brings you reports of legal developments and other trends of vital interest to seniors and their advocates. This newsletter is brought to you by The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., William S. Fralin, Esq., President., William S. Fralin, Esq., President.

The Importance of Updating Your Beneficiary Designations after Hillman v. Maretta

Pursuant to Virginia Code §20-111.1, a beneficiary designation naming a former spouse as beneficiary of a death benefit may be revoked by operation of law upon the entrance of a final decree of annulment or divorce.

The law further provides that, if a former spouse receives a death benefit pursuant to federal law, then the former spouse may be liable for reimbursing the person who would have otherwise received the benefit absent such designation.

Hillman v. Maretta, which was decided on June 5, 2013, challenged Virginia Code §20-111.1 as it relates to federal death benefits. In that case, Jacqueline Hillman ("Jacqueline"), the wife of Warren Hillman ("Warren"), sued Judy Maretta ("Judy"), the former wife of Warren, to recover proceeds received by Judy from Warren's Federal Employee's Group Life Insurance policy. Jacqueline claimed that while the Federal Employee's Group Life Insurance Policy Act ("FEGLIA"), 5 U.S.C. §8701 et seq., preempted1 state law with regard to the revocation of the designation, FEGLIA did not preempt with regard to the requirement for reimbursement. The United States Supreme Court held that FEGLIA preempts Virginia Code §20-111.1, which conflicts with the objective and purpose of FEGLIA, and therefore, the Commonwealth of Virginia cannot hold a former spouse who receives a FEGLI death benefit liable to whoever would have otherwise inherited the benefit.

The effect of Hillman v. Maretta may extend beyond FEGLI benefits and into other federal benefit plans. As a result, it is important that you routinely review your estate plan, which encompasses the distribution of your entire estate and includes designation of beneficiaries. The attorneys at The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm understand that a comprehensive estate plan consists of more than just a Will and/or Trust, and they work with clients to review beneficiary designations. To have one of these attorneys meet with you to review your estate plan, please contact us.

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The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C.

The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. is an elder law firm. We represent older persons, disabled persons, their families, and their advocates. The practice of elder law includes estate planning, estate and trust administration, powers of attorney, advance medical directives, titling of assets and designations of beneficiaries, guardianships, conservatorships, and public entitlements such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and SSI, disability planning, income tax planning and preparation, care management, and fiduciary services. For more information about The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C., please visit our website at http://www.chroniccareadvocacy.com.

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This newsletter is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel. While every precaution has been taken to make this newsletter accurate, we assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or damages resulting from the use of the information in this newsletter. The Estate Planning & Elder Law Firm, P.C. thanks the law firm of Hook Law Center for their input to this newsletter.

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