Can a life insurance company refuse a payout to an ex-spouse named as beneficiary?

Premiums have been kept up by the ex-wife since prior to the divorce when husband wanted to cancel and said he was fine with her keeping the policy as long as he didn’t have to pay the premiums. They have a mentally challenged adult daughter together who lives with the ex-wife. She has power of attorney for her, as well and handles all care. He recently passed away. The ex-wife is not named in the Will, however the daughter is. She was left a sum of money which she only has access to a specified amount per month. Most of his money and property was left to a girlfriend. When the ex filed for the life insurance they asked for a copy of both the divorce decree and the Will.

Asked on December 9, 2017 under Insurance Law, Tennessee


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

My research suggests that in TN, if you were the named beneficiary of your ex-husband's life insurance policy, you cannot be prevented from receiving the proceeds. The policy is a contract and you would be contractually entitled to the proceeds (although this varies; in some states an ex-spouse is disqualified as a beneficiary absent a written agreement to the contrary). If the insurance company refuses to make a payout to you, you may want to consult directly with a local attorney in who specializes in insurance matters to assist you with filing the claim. That having been said, you will need to provide the insurer with your ex's death certificate. As a general rule, the Dept of Vital Records requires that the requestor be a family member but you can inquire to whether there are exceptions for a former spouse who is a named insurance beneficiary. 

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.