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Ask the Life Insurance Expert

Can an ex-spouse collect the life insurance benefit on her ex-husband if he has remarried?

You bet! The ex-spouse gets the death benefit if she is the beneficiary listed on the policy. A life insurance policy is a contract, so the beneficiary gets the proceeds. This is the case even if the insured remarried and maintained no relationship with his ex-wife before he died.

This is why life insurance professionals urge consumers to review their life insurance policies every few years and especially after major life changes, such as marriage and divorce. In addition to updating individual life insurance, policyholders should evaluate their group life insurance policies to make sure their beneficiary choices are up to date.

Life insurance needs change as you age and as your life changes. You might need more coverage as the years progress and obligations increase, or you might need less coverage once children leave the nest and the mortgage is paid off. Beneficiary choices may change as well, especially after marriage, divorce or loss of a spouse.

Only the policyholder -- the person who pays the premiums -- can make changes to the policy. Sometimes the policyholder is the same as the insured, but sometimes the owner and the insured are two different people. A husband, for instance, might purchase a policy to insure his wife's life.

Here's an explanation of who's who on a life insurance policy.

Last updated: Aug. 16, 2012