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Life Insurance Beneficiary Question. If ex-husband names his ex-wife as beneficiary, does she have to share with the new wife

Smyrna, GA |

Husband has now died and the insurance policy beneficiary is still in the name of the ex-wife. New wife wants half. Does ex-wife have to give anything?

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Attorney answers 4



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Some states automatically revoke a spouse's designation as beneficiary upon divorce. It does not appear, however, that Georgia is one of these states. If a significant sum of money is at stake, it would be worthwhile to have an attorney letter written to the New wife setting forth the state of the law.

If you'd like to discuss, please feel free to call. Jeff Gold Gold, Benes, LLP 1854 Bellmore Ave Bellmore, NY 11710 Telephone -516.512.6333 Email -


Mr. Ashman is exactly right: No, the ex-wife does not have to give anyone any proceeds she receives as a life insurance policy beneficiary. Life insurance proceeds belong to the beneficiary no matter what. This is a perfect example of why it is absolutely critical to meet with an experienced estate planning attorney as soon as possible after a divorce or a remarriage, AND to FOLLOW THROUGH on the attorney's advice. The attorney should, in addition to providing updated legal documents, also provide a reminder to the client that he or she needs to go back and check all beneficiary designations and "payable on death" or "transfer on death" designations, to ensure that needed or desired changes are made. Unfortunately, this sort of thing happens all the time. But getting good planning help and following through on it can really help people avoid this sort of sad situation.

This answer is not intended to provide you with specific legal advice regarding your situation, or to create any attorney-client relationship. The intent is only to provide general information. You should be aware that you cannot rely on this answer to provide you with any protection against tax penalties. You should always consult your own attorney in order to obtain legal advice.


This is one of the most heavily litigated issues, in recent times. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided cases providing that the insurance company must pay the beneficiary. State law then determines whether the beneficiary is allowed to keep it or not. Under MANY states, the divorce judgment or property settlement serves as a waiver and the ex-spouse is not allowed to retain the benefits. Other states provide that the ex holds the proceeds in a "constructive trust" for the estate. This is not a simple issue and you may want to explore it in more detail. The law in this area continues to evolve. It is one of the "hot button" issues in law.

James Frederick

P.S. BOTH of my colleagues who offered you prior responses are Georgia attorneys and very good ones. I do not disagree with their responses, as they may be spot on, for Georgie law. If your husband or his ex were in a different state, or if the insurance company policy dictates that the laws of a different state apply to the policy, your answer could vary. I would have this reviewed in detail, particularly if the insurance is substantial.

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