What to do if my father passed away a few months ago and his life insurance beneficiary was his 5th ex-wife and not 1 of his 5 children?

UPDATED: Sep 18, 2012

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What to do if my father passed away a few months ago and his life insurance beneficiary was his 5th ex-wife and not 1 of his 5 children?

She married for legal citizenship. They divorced and is now living out of the country and not sure of her current status. Does she have any rights to the money? He had no Will and no assets.

Asked on September 18, 2012 under Estate Planning, California


Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, you have a problem.  In general, insurance is a contract and is governed by contract laws.  Naming a beneficiary is similar to preparing a will, and some states, Florida is one of them, apply some of the laws governing wills to naming a life insurance beneficiary.

A contract can be invalidated if it was procured by fraud, duress, or, in Florida, undue influence.  It is invalid if the party (your father) lacked capacity to enter into a contract.  Your question does not show fraud, duress, undue influence, or lack of capacity, but one of them might exist.

I suggest that the children speak with an insurance lawyer (first party insurance claims) or a probate litigation attorney about this.  Your state may provide some ways to dispute this beneficiary.  Of course, if you bring a challenge, the ex-wife will have to come to the States and defend it or she will lose by default.

If the ex-wife loses her claim to the life insurance proceeds, they would likely be paid to your father's estate.  Once in the estate, they would be distributed according to your state's statute of descent and distribution (i.e., the law that says who inherits if a person has no will).  That statute likely says the 5 children will inherit equal shares.

Good luck.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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