Does a fiance who is specified to be a life insurance beneficiary lose their claim rights if subsequently married and divorced?

I was engaged to a man 11 years ago and he made me his primary beneficiary for his life insurance. Subsequently, he and I were married and divorced (twice), and since the 2nd divorce 2 years ago, we continued in an intimate relationship until his death this month. There were no provisions for the life insurance in our divorce agreement. I was told state law stipulates that divorce terminates a spouse’s beneficiary interest. But I was not a spouse at the time of the initial beneficiary change; I was engaged to then and “engaged” to him at his death.

Asked on November 9, 2011 under Insurance Law, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Divorce terminates your right to receive anything under intestate succession. It would also terminate your right to receive under a will or under an insurance policy if either left their proceeds to the decedent's "wife"--after all, subsequent to the divorce, you are no longer his wife.

On the other hand, if you were named as his beneficiary specifically by name (rather than by the relationship of wife) on the policy, then it should still  go to you--insurance policies are like any other contracts, and will be interpreted according to their plain language. If you were named as the beneficiary and that was never changed, and your status as beneficiary were not clearly contingent upon your marital relationship, you should still collect under  the policy. The facts as you describe them (named as beneficiary before marriage; not changed or removed as beneficiary through two divorces; etc.) would reinforce that he intended to name you, whether or not you were married at the time.

So if you are simply named as yourself, and not as wife, from what you write, it would seem you would still be the beneficiary.

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