2. Related to the first question, if my ex predeceases me can she in her “will,” will the 35 percent retired pay to someone else as “property” or does it revert back to me?
3. In regards to my social security benefits, if I predecease my ex and current wife, who can make a claim against my Social Security benefits? I have no dependant children.
–Carlos, Hudson, N. H.
A: Well, you’ve got some great, fairly technical questions. And I love it that you’re thinking through things so you may plan better. This financial planner likes that! The source for these types of questions is Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS). The DFAS Frequently Asked Questions on SBP runs through several scenarios for you. Here’s my understanding:
1. You may be able to change your SBP coverage to your current wife right now, but only if you voluntarily provide SBP coverage for her. It could not have been required by a court order or divorce decree to provide “former spouse coverage.” So if you set up former spouse coverage voluntarily, you just need to contact DFAS in writing and change the coverage to your new wife. Otherwise, if your former spouse predeceases you, you could switch coverage to your new wife using Form 2656–6.
2. Despite retired pay being treated as marital property during the divorce proceedings, your ex-spouse’s right to payments terminates at her death…in other words, she cannot pass that pension on to someone else.
3. Finally, when it comes to Social Security, your ex-wife should be eligible to receive benefits as a divorced spouse based on your earnings record. To qualify your marriage to your ex had to have lasted 10 years (check) and she must remain unmarried (don’t know about that one). But the good news is that your current spouse should also be able to collect Social Security on your record, too, as long as you’re married nine months or longer (check) Here’s a link to information on this topic at the Social Security website.