Can an ex-wife still be a beneficiary of a life insurance policy?

My husband died 2 months ago. I was the beneficiary on his Will. Several years ago we discussed insurance policies. He told me that he had put my name as beneficiary on all of his insurance policies except one. He was leaving his ex-wife that one, so she would have something when he died. He was divorced from her 28 years ago. I have been his wife for 25 years. Going through the papers, I found 3 old policies – 1 as far back as 1957, 1 from 1966 and not sure of the date of the other. She was named as beneficiary in all of those. I’m sure he didn’t even realize those were in effect anymore.

Asked on August 24, 2011 Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes, an ex-wife can still be a beneficiary--essentially a person may name *anyone* as a beneficiary on a life insurance policy, regardless of relationship or even whether it's a "person" or not (e.g. businesses, charities, non-governmental organizations, etc. can all be beneficiaries).

The only hitch is that she would have to be named by name. If she were named as "wife," then the policy would not go to her, as she was *not* his wife at the time your husband passed away. Rather, it would have gone to you, as his wife. Assuming she was correctly identified, however, she will be the beneficiary of the policies; that your husband did not even remember them would not affect it, since a policy must be affirmatively changed or canceled (assuming it was properly paid up).


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