What are an ex-wife’s rights to life insurance proceeds?

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What are an ex-wife’s rights to life insurance proceeds?

Asked on July 6, 2015 under Estate Planning, Missouri

Answers:

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

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Many people name their spouse as the beneficiaries of their life insurance but fail to update their policy if the marriage ends in divorce. However, as a general rule, life insurance benefits are paid to the named beneficiary, regardless of their status as a spouse. In most states (not all), divorce usually has no effect on the beneficiary. Since a divorce does not automatically remove the spouse as the beneficiary, the owner must change the beneficiary of their policy.

That having been said, there are instances where an ex-spouse is ineligible to collect life insurance proceeds even they are the named beneficiary. For example, an insurance policy may contain language excluding a beneficiary who is not a spouse at the time of the insured’s death; a divorce decree may also state that the ex-spouse is no longer eligible to receive life insurance benefits; some states have laws that revoke a person’s beneficiary rights upon divorce.


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