Can my ex-wife’s current husband exclude my daughter from any life insurance he receives when my ex-wife dies?

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Can my ex-wife’s current husband exclude my daughter from any life insurance he receives when my ex-wife dies?

My ex-wife (42 years old) got very sick and slipped into a coma-like condition over 2 years ago. To make a horrible situation worse, she did not have a Will either. Recently, her doctor recommended they stop all medications as they are no longer “enhancing health” and are only delaying her inevitable passing. Her insurance policy has the current husband as the sole beneficiary. He’s telling my daughter (20) that she will receive nothing when her mom dies. Can he do this legally in MO? Can we challenge this through the probate process? Do we have any legal recourse?

Asked on December 8, 2010 under Estate Planning, Missouri

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, whoever is listed on an insurance policy is the rightful beneficiary.  A child has no automatic inheritance rights to life insurance proceeds if their parent dies. In fact, if this was a Will, a child would also have no such rights if they were not listed as a benficiary (i.e. they could be disinherited).  The only time a child inherits outright is when someone dies  "intestate" (i.e. without a Will).  In such a case, the deceased parent's assets are typically divided between any surviving spouse and the deceased children (the split varies from state-to-state). However, since life insurance proceeds pass outside of the probate estate, intestacy laws have no effect on who is entitled to receive them.  Only the named beneficiary will be paid.


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