Can an Ex-Spouse Collect Life Insurance Benefits?

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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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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Generally, life insurance benefits are paid to the named beneficiary, regardless of his or her status as a spouse. In places other than Michigan, divorce usually has no effect on this designation of beneficiary.

When you purchase a life insurance policy, you are asked to name a beneficiary. This is the person who will receive the policy’s payment upon your death. Many people name their spouse as their life insurance beneficiary and subsequently fail to update their policy if the marriage ends in divorce. A divorce does not automatically remove the spouse as the beneficiary – you must change the beneficiary of your policy according to your insurance company’s procedures if you do not want your ex-spouse to receive the policy’s benefits.

However, there are instances where an ex-spouse is not eligible to collect life insurance benefits even if he or she is the named beneficiary on the policy. For instance, the insurance policy may contain a provision that excludes a beneficiary whose spousal status does not exist at the time of the insured’s death from collecting benefits. The divorce decree may also explicitly state that the ex-spouse is no longer eligible to receive life insurance benefits. In addition, some states have laws that revoke a person’s beneficiary rights upon divorce (Michigan is one such state).

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