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Can my estranged husbands death benefits be fought for by his family?

Cincinnati, OH |

My estranged husband passed away from an accidental overdose. We have not been together for 7 years. Of those 7 years he was encarcerated for 6 years for robbery. He has a life insurance policy from his work. I was named beneficary because I am his wife and no one was named. Can his family fight me for the money?

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Attorney answers 3


Some of the answer depends on your marital status, and some on the workplace rules and insurance policy.

If you were separated and had a separation agreement, the separation agreement will control if it says anything about insurance policies.

If you are legally divorced, Ohio law revokes the beneficiary designation unless the separation agreement says otherwise.

If you had no separation agreement and were not legally divorced, it is my belief that the beneficiary designation will hold up, and if your husband's family sues you, they will lose. However, to be sure, you should check with an expert divorce lawyer. You may wish to post this question in the Family/Divorce law section of AVVO.


The beneficiary listed on a life insurance policy can claim the death benefit proceeds. A divorce does sever this right to claim a policy in some circumstances.

Mr. Stapleton is an Estate Planning attorney in Cincinnati, Ohio. For more information you may contact him at 513-771-2444 (Ext. 106) or by following this link: Any information provided by this attorney does not establish an attorney-client relationship. You must seek qualified counsel to fully evaluate every legal matter.


Are there any documents filed with the Court evidencing the estrangement such as the commencement of an action for Divorce or Separation ?. Has the beneficiary designation on the life insurance policy been changed? Did a Separation Agreement exist prior to the husband's death? If the answer to those questions is "no", then I believe that the proceeds of the life insurance policy belong to the named beneficiary. What is preventing the wife from filing a claim with the insurance company? The wife can take the proceeds. It can be contested but I do not believe the challenge will be successful.

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