What if my spouse designated a beneficiary without my consent?

What are your options if your spouse named someone other than you as a beneficiary on a community property life insurance policy or retirement account?

California Probate Code Section 5021 states that: 

 (a) In a proceeding to set aside a nonprobate transfer of community property on death made pursuant to a provision for transfer of the property executed by a married person without the written consent of the person’s spouse, the court shall set aside the transfer as to the nonconsenting spouse’s interest in the property, subject to terms and conditions or other remedies that appear equitable under the circumstances of the case, taking into account the rights of all interested persons.

(b) Nothing in subdivision (a) affects any additional remedy the nonconsenting spouse may have against the person’s estate for a nonprobate transfer of community property on death without the spouse’s written consent.

Therefore, a court is permitted to set aside a nonprobate transfer of community property (for example, the naming of someone other than a spouse as a beneficiary of a community property retirement account) if the other spouse does not consent.

Many financial institutions forms and life insurance forms have a place where spousal consent must be indicated by his or her signature. That being said, if there is no place for a spouse to sign, you should contact the financial institution to see about how to fulfill this requirement.