what happens when a person is convicted of murder and is the beneficiary of the life insurance policy

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jun 9, 2010

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Insurance Question from Cannon AFB, NM

Asked on 06/09/2010

what happens when a person is convicted of murder and is the beneficiary of the life insurance policy my mother was murdered last year in Montana by my step dad and was the beneficiary of her life insurance policy. he is pleading guilty soon. does that policy go to the next of kin or is it lost to that state

Answer given on July 07, 2010

In most states, if not all, the beneficiary is automatically excluded from the policy if they murder the insured.  There is a difference between "intestate" and not having a qualified beneficiary named on a life insurance policy.

Check your policy.  If there is a "primary" and "secondary" or "contingent" beneficiary designation, and your step father was "primary", it would then go to the secondary/contingent beneficiary, unless there is some other circumstance that prevents that also ( outstanding debts, etc.  ). Even though New Mexico is a "community property" state, the step father is not allowed to benefit from the policy because of his action resulting in "wrongful death".

If there is no beneficiary named, then usually, the estate of the deceased becomes the beneficiary by default.  If that is the case, it will end up going through the probate process. 

The probate process can take a long time to get through… often six months or more, so be prepared if this is the case. 

The good news is, if there is no will, and your mother DID pass away "intestate", then yes, the next of kin would receive ownership of the estate.  The estate would only go to the state if the deceased passed away intestate, and there were no surviving relatives.


Good luck.  Hope this helps.



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