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Does a Divorce Decree override a Named Beneficiary? (MI)

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Junior Member
What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)? MI

My step father recently passed away at the age of 52. He and my mother have been married for about 5 years, and both were previously married.

Each of his two children from his previous marriage are named as beneficiaries on seperate life insurance policies. There is also another live insurance policy that still has his ex-wife listed as beneficiary. He recently requested paperwork to be sent, so he could change the beneficiary to my mother, but didn't get a chance to send it in.

However, his divorce decree clearly states that neither spouse would be entitled to any future earnings, assets, retirement accounts, insurance policies, ect.

Does the divorce decree supercede the insurance policy?
Would my mother be named beneficiary by default, or would it go to the estate?

Some Random Guy

Senior Member
The divorce decree says that the ex-wife is not ENTITLED to the money. However, nothing stops the ex-husband from giving her money.

BUT, Michigan has special laws regarding divorce and life insurance. In Michigan, a divorce automatically terminates the spouse's interest. This means that AFTER the divorce, the husband would have had to reestablish his wife as the beneficiary by filling out a new beneficiary form. Usually she would be listed as ex wife or ex spouse to make it clear that the designation was made after the divorce.

Does a life insurance beneficiary description reading ‘to my wife, joan’ remain payable to her even though we are divorced?

Contact the insurer ASAP and notify them of the divorce.

Dandy Don

Senior Member
It's hard to know how the insurance company is going to handle this because they sometimes operate on their own rules and regulations, independently of state law, but it appears they might go ahead and let the check be issued to the ESTATE of the decedent so it can be distributed through probate court, or if they are unsure about how to handle this matter after consulting with their own attorneys, the insurance company might decide to put it into an interpleader action to let the court decide who gets the money, in which case I assume they will notify you of that decision to go to interpleader status.

DANDY DON IN OKLAHOMA ([email protected])


Junior Member
Thanks for the reply SRG...

Just to clarify though, and since there was no change of beneficiary after the divorce...

Is his new spouse automatically entiled to the policy, or is the estate?
(He died unexpectedly without a formal will or trust)

Some Random Guy

Senior Member
Not sure, thats why you need to contact the insurance company. Do it today before they issue a check to the ex wife. I have seen that the amount would go to his surviving spouse but do not know if it is direct or through the estate.

Dandy Don

Senior Member
You also need to ask the insurance company if there were contingent beneficiaries named. If so, then the money would go to those beneficiaries and not to the estate.


It's hard to know how the insurance company is going to handle this because they sometimes operate on their own rules and regulations, independently of state law,
This is an incorrect statement, since these companies are highly regulated and are required to conform to the laws of the states they do business in.

The insurance company must pay whoever is named as a beneficiary on the policy. Under the circumstance you describe, there is no ambiguity or question of law in this regard. The ex-wife is entitled to the insurance money.

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