Term Life Insurance Policies in Washington

When a couple is going through a divorce, they tend to focus on the most “important” issues, such as issues related to their child’s custody and visitation, child support, payment of marital debts, and possession of the marital residence. Other, less-pressing issues tend to be forgotten in the midst of typically stressful and emotional divorce proceedings. Unfortunately, this can result in problems for the newly-divorced.

Term life insurance policies, for instance, usually have little, if any, investment value, and not much attention is paid to them during a divorce. As a result, it is not uncommon for a former spouse to be left as the beneficiary of the other former spouse’s term life insurance policy. When a former spouse dies unexpectedly, there could be unanticipated and unwanted results, making it important this issue is addressed with a Washington divorce lawyer.

Washington State Laws

Fortunately, the state of Washington has a law in place that specifically deals with this situation. Essentially, that law states that if the husband has a life insurance policy with wife listed as the primary beneficiary, and husband and wife later divorce, the wife is no longer considered to be the beneficiary. Rather, the law provides that wife’s status as a beneficiary is terminated along with the parties’ marriage. If the life insurance policy has a secondary beneficiary, then the proceeds from the policy then would pass to the secondary beneficiary outside of probate.

There are a few exceptions to the Washington law on divorce and term life insurance policies. For example, in some cases, a wife may have purchased a term life insurance policy that insures the life of her husband and names her as the beneficiary. If this policy is still legally valid at the time of the couple’s divorce, there would be no effect on the distribution of the policy proceeds if the now former husband passes away. Former wife still would be able to collect the distribution of funds from the policy upon her former husband’s death.

Likewise, if a spouse has a term life insurance policy through his or her employer, the person designated as beneficiary, even if it is a former spouse, still will receive the proceeds of the policy. In this type of situation, the only way to ensure that a former spouse does not receive the proceeds of the life insurance policy is to change the beneficiary designation prior to death.

The other exception involves a court order. In some cases, divorce decrees or settlement agreements order one former spouse to carry a life insurance policy in a certain amount for the benefit of the other former spouse. In the event of the policyholder’s death, the former spouse still would receive the policy proceeds, in accordance with the court order.

How Our Lawyers Can Help

The lawyers at Ashby Law are eager to answer your questions and help you understand the ins and outs of filing for divorce. As your attorneys, we will focus on how best to represent your interests and achieve the goals that you wish to reach. We have handled countless divorce and family law proceedings over the years, and we will work with you to create the best strategy possible in your case.

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