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: Oct 3, 2012

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My friend was a beneficiary on her ex-husband’s life insurance policy. In trying to collect for funeral expenses, she was told her divorce released her automatically as a beneficiary. Why?

This is one that can easily vary from state to state, if the policy had any value. It also may be impacted by the language of her divorce decree or separation agreement.

If the state law says the beneficiary designation of an ex-spouse lapses on divorce, and requires a filing of a new beneficiary designation or language in the divorce decree, and thus there is no beneficiary, the insurance company would pay a “contigent beneficiary” if any, and if none, the deceased’s estate in which case the money ultimately goes according to this Will or the laws of intestate distribution of his state.