Can’t Collect on Ex-Husband’s Life Insurance

(WSVN) - She paid on a life insurance policy for decades, but when her ex-husband died, she was told she couldn’t collect because she’d divorced him. Is that legal? Let’s bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Willie and Patricia were married back in 1963.

Patricia Stewart: “He was a good man. He wasn’t a fighter or anything.”

Willie loved Patricia. Only problem, Patricia says, was that Willie loved other women as well.

Patricia Stewart: “He just liked the dog track, gambling, women, whatever.”

So after 26 years of marriage, Patricia divorced Willie. A good divorce, if there is such a thing.

Patricia Stewart: “When we divorced, well, he gave me the house and the cars.”

They stayed friends. In fact, Willie had a life insurance policy that would go to Patricia if he died.

Patricia Stewart: “And he says, ‘Here is the life policy, $15,000, if anything happens to me.”

The only stipulation? After they split up, Patricia had to start paying the premiums on the policy.

And she did.

Patricia Stewart: “And I kept up the insurance. He didn’t like insurance.”

Then last year, Willie died, and Patricia tried to collect on the $15,000 life insurance policy.

First she was told it’s not $15,000 anymore.

Patricia Stewart: “Age to 61, you lose half of the policy, so from $15,000 it came down to $7,500.”

But a few days later, Patricia got a letter from the insurance company saying she couldn’t collect at all, that, “Your rights as the beneficiary have been revoked as a result of the divorce” from Willie.

Patricia Stewart: “Fifty-some years paying on a policy, and you can’t get anything back from it?”

Patricia says, if she wasn’t entitled to the money, why didn’t the insurance company tell her that while she was paying the premiums for all those years after they got divorced?

Patricia Stewart: “I would like for them to pay my policy, half the money that is owed to me.”

Well, Howard, Patricia paid the premiums, but can this insurance company refuse to pay because she divorced Willie?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “As of today, the insurance company does not have to pay the ex if there is a divorce. That’s because of a law passed in 2012. But Patricia and Willie bought the policy 50 years ago, meaning the new law does not apply to them, and the insurance company has to follow the terms of their old policy and pay Patricia.”

It took one phone call, and the mistake was corrected. Patricia then got her check for $7,621.

And we also did the math. Patricia and Willie had paid the $21 a month for 50 years, meaning they paid $12,600 for a policy that paid out just $7,621.

Howard Finkelstein: “Read your policy to understand the terms of the payoff. If might be time to drop the policy, because it may be costing you more than it will pay off. If you don’t have the policy, ask the insurance company for it.”

Patricia Stewart: “The people, the salesman explains the policy to you, and you just take their word for it.”

Patricia got part of the insurance money, and she made one vow before we left her house: No insurance company will ever get another dime from her.

Patricia Stewart: “I don’t want no more insurance policies. It’s not worth it.”

Now, if you bought an insurance policy before 2012 and don’t want your ex to collect on it if you kick the bucket, you need to change that policy. Or if you bought it after 2012 and you want your ex to collect, you need to notify the insurance company. As if divorces aren’t complicated enough.

Married to a problem that’s not paying off? Ready to divorce yourself from it? Contact us. We place a premium on helping to insure you are happy.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
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