Is my mother still entitled to an insurance policy for my father even though they were divorced?

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Is my mother still entitled to an insurance policy for my father even though they were divorced?

My father never changed the beneficiary and still has my mother listed. In their divorce decree it is never referred to. My father never changed the beneficiary because he always intended for my mother to get. However, it is not listed in the decree. It is a small amount that my father earned because he was a police officer. If she is not entitled to the money, then who is?

Asked on November 10, 2010 under Insurance Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Under PA law, in the event of a divorce, an ex-spouse is treated as though they pre-deceased the insured.  This means that legally, for inheritance purposes, etc, your mother will be viewed as having died before your father.  Therefore, the proceeds would be payable to any named "contingent" (back-up) benevicairty in the policy.  If there was no such person designated, then the proceeds would be paid to your father's estate and would pass as per the residuary clause  in his Will, if he had one.  If he did not have a Will, then he died "intestate".  Accordingly, his estate would be distributed according to the intestacy laws of the state that he was domiciled in as of the date of his death.  Typically, among a surviving (current) spouse, if any, and children.

There is, however, an exception to the above.  You state that, "he always intended for my mother to get [the insurance proceeds]".  I'm not sure what, if any proof, that you have of this.  Yet it matters. Under state law, if it appears from the wording of the designation in the policy, or a court order, or a written contract between your father and mother that her beneficiary status was intended to survive the divorce, then she can indeed collect the proceeds of the insurance policy. 

Since this can all get quite complicated, you need to consult directly with a probate attorney.


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