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Court says property division order voided at ex-husband's death

After a divorce, it is a good idea to examine your estate plan to see if it needs to be updated. You probably named your former spouse as a beneficiary. Now is likely to the time to change that. Things like life insurance policies may need amending too.

An inconveniently timed death can cause great confusion over who gets the value of a life insurance policy. In a recent decision from outside of Virginia, the Rhode Island Supreme Court has ruled that a woman does not have the right to a portion of her deceased ex-husband’s life insurance policy -- despite a family court ruling that the ex-husband had to give her half its value as part of their divorce.

According to Insurance News Net, this somewhat confusing case began in 2008, when the woman filed for divorce. At the time, she was the beneficiary of her husband’s life insurance policy, but after being served with divorce papers, he changed the beneficiary to his uncle.

Later, the court ruled that the insurance policy must be cashed out, and its value split between the exes. But before that could happen, the ex-husband died. The insurance company refused to pay the benefits to the uncle, who sued.

The ex-wife argued that the ex-husband’s estate should abide by the family court decision. But the state Supreme Court ruled that the order was void upon the ex-husband’s death, saying that any order related to division of property in the case “terminates on the death of one of the parties. The Court also rejected the ex-wife’s argument that the division of the life insurance policy was to be “akin to an alimony or support order.”

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