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Who receives your SGLI proceeds - your spouse or your former spouse?

By E. Stephanie Hebert | 502nd Installation Support Group Staff Judge Advocate | July 16, 2014

JBSA-FORT SAM HOUSTON — Payment from a Servicemember's Group Life Insurance policy may be the largest sum of money that your family receives if you die while on active duty.

That's why it's important to make sure that your SGLV 8286 form - the SGLI Election and Certificate - is accurate and up to date. Otherwise, it could lead to a $400,000 mistake and there's nothing you'll be able to do about it when you're no longer here.

When was the last time you looked at your SGLV 8286 form to confirm your beneficiary designations?

Servicemembers usually name their spouses as primary beneficiaries and their children as secondary beneficiaries. If you name someone other than your spouse as your primary beneficiary, or remove your spouse as a beneficiary, your spouse will be notified in writing.

The most recent edition of the SGLV 8286 form (August 2013) requires your agreement to the following statements: "I am free to name anyone I want as my beneficiary. I certify that I understand if I have designated someone other than my spouse or child as my beneficiary, the person I have named is the person I intend to receive my insurance proceeds. I also understand that if I am married, my spouse may be notified that he/she (or my child) is not my designated beneficiary."

Assuming that your wife or husband is named as your primary beneficiary, what happens to your SGLV designation after a divorce? According to Texas law, a divorce will nullify a state life insurance beneficiary designation in favor of your former spouse.

But SGLI doesn't work that way. If you fail to remove your former spouse's name from your SGLV 8286, before or after a divorce, your former spouse will receive the proceeds when you die. And there's nothing that your subsequent spouse, your children or your parents will be able to do to change that fact.

Notwithstanding the unambiguous statutes and case law, spouses and former spouses still fight over SGLI proceeds. Let's save them the time, effort and expense of litigation.

Even if you think you know who your SGLI beneficiary is, check again. Ensure that the beneficiaries are clearly identified. Ensure that you give a copy of the SGLV 8286 to your personnel clerk and that you keep a copy of your SGLV 8286 with your estate planning records.

As with any life-changing event, you should review your SGLV 8286 to determine whether a particular event justifies or requires a change in beneficiaries.

For example, if you have another child and want that child to receive a share of your SGLI proceeds, you must prepare a new SGLV 8286 because "beneficiaries are not automatically changed by life events," as stated on page 3 of the SGLV 8286.

Many military spouses separate, but remain legally married for years. They often do so for financial reasons such as increased BAH, or to provide civilian spouses or their children, medical benefits that they would not otherwise have. This is especially true when the spouse or children are seriously ill.

If you find yourself in this situation, have questions about SGLI beneficiary designations, or have questions about your estate, contact your installation legal assistance attorney.

At Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, call 808-0169. The legal office is located at 2271 Reynolds Road, at the corner of Wilson Road, and appointments are Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Walk-in legal assistance is available from 8:30-10:30 a.m. Tuesdays for eligible ID card holders and from 8:30-10:30 a.m. Thursdays for active duty military members only.

At JBSA-Lackland, call 671-3362. The legal office is located at 1701 Kenly Ave., Room 134. Walk-in assistance is 8:30-9:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday and scheduled appointments from 9:30 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

At JBSA-Randolph, call 652-6781. The legal office is located at the Taj Mahal, building 100, Suite 6. Walk-in legal assistance is from 8:30-10:30 a.m. every Tuesday. Deploying personnel receive priority and can be seen for wills either by appointment or through the walk-in service.