If someone left their ex-spouse as the beneficiary on their life insurance policy what, if anything, can be done?

Asked on August 4, 2015 under Insurance Law, Maryland


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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Life insurance benefits are paid to the named beneficiary regardless of their status as an ex-spouse. Generally, divorce has no effect on who is designated to receive these benefits; ex-spouse's are not automatically removedas the beneficiary. Unfortunately, many people name their spouse as their life insurance beneficiary but fail to update their policies in the event of divorce.

That having been said, there are instances where an ex-spouse is not eligible to collect life insurance benefits. For example, if the insurance policy contains a provision that excludes a beneficiary spouse from receiving benefits if spousal status does not exist at the time of the insured’s death. Additionally, a divorce decree may provide that the ex-spouse is no longer eligible to receive these proceeds. Finally, some states have enacted laws that revoke a spouse’s beneficiary rights upon divorce.

At this point you should consult directly with an attorney and have them advice you further under applicable state law. Also, theycan check the original divorce decree to see if the issue was addressed, as well as checking the language in the policy itself.

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