By Linda M. Toga, Esq.
The Facts: When I got married in 2000 my wife named me as the beneficiary on her life insurance policy. We were divorced two years ago. Our divorce settlement provides that my ex-spouse is required to continue paying her life insurance premiums and is prohibited from removing me as the beneficiary. I was told that our divorce automatically voids the beneficiary designation on her policy.
The Questions: Is that true? If so, what can I do to protect my right to receive the life insurance proceeds?
The Answer: In 2008 the law in New York changed so that a divorce does sever and/or negate the rights of an ex-spouse to bequests made in a will, appointments made in healthcare proxies and powers of attorney and beneficiary designations made on life insurance policies, to name a few. However, the law provides that the ex-spouse will retain rights and benefits in certain circumstances despite the divorce if there is a controlling document that states as much. If, in fact, your divorce settlement is deemed a controlling document, it is likely that the terms of your settlement will trump the statute. However, unless the insurance company is aware of the term of your divorce, they could very well pay the life insurance benefits to the contingent beneficiary named on your ex-spouses policy or to her estate. To avoid this outcome, you should contact an attorney who can protect your rights and enforce the terms of your divorce settlement.
Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of litigation, estate planning and real estate from her East Setauket office.