Can a beneficiary of a life insurance policy be changed after death?

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Can a beneficiary of a life insurance policy be changed after death?

My brother passed away and did not remove his ex-wife from a life insurance policy. My mom and I are his only living relatives and are certain that this was an oversight an my brothers part. His ex-wife left him and is re-married. They have been divorced since 2006. My mom and I are listed on the policy but as contingent beneficiaries. Is there anything that can be done?

Asked on December 6, 2010 under Estate Planning, New York

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

In response to the inequity of such situations, most state laws now provide that an ex-spouse beneficiary cannot share in such proceeds.  In NY, according to NYEPTL 5-1.4, among other things, a divorce revokes a former spouse’s rights pursuant to beneficiary designation of a life insurance policy.  This means that your former sister-in-law is ineligible to claim any proceeds payable under your brother's policy.  And in a case where the primary beneficiary is disqualified to recieve proceeds, the proceeds are then made paybale to the listed contingent beneficiaries - in this case, to you and your mother.


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