In the Event of a Death, Which takes Precedence a Life Insurance Policy or Divorce Decree?

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“My question is this… My father-in-law’s divorce contract in (NY. 1983) states that in the event of his death his ex wife shall receive a certain amount of money from his life insurance policy. Recently in his passing, we have come to find out that in the last few years he made some big changes in his insurance policy. He cut the amount in half, I think because of the premiums along w/ his age, and made his current wife sole beneficiary. This life insurance contract was this way since 2004 and stayed this way until his death. The life insurance company, upon receiving the death certificate, processed the claim (in FL.) and had money ready to send to his current wife. They immediately stopped payment when his ex wife’s lawyer sent them a letter. My base question is which contract is going to fly? The divorce or the insurance naming only one beneficiary?”

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You can only contractually give away the rights you have. Your father did not have the right to give away all of his insurance proceeds based on the contract he made in New York. You should be glad that he maintained _ANY_ insurance. If he had died and did not have any policy of insurance, his ex would have been able to proceed against any assets in his estate to satisfy his obligation under the divorce decree.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.

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