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Ask the Life Insurance Expert

Can living in a community property state affect my life insurance policy if the beneficiary is someone other than my spouse?

Yes.  Your spouse may have a legal claim to part of your life insurance benefits.

If you live in one of the nine community-property states (Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin), then both you and your spouse equally own any property purchased with the income earned during the marriage, including a life insurance policy.

Thus, if you get a divorce your life insurance policy be taken into account.  Or, if you name someone other than your spouse as the beneficiary.

Community-property state laws vary but, in general, this means that your spouse has a right to a portion of your life insurance benefits.  How much varies by law and the type of life policy you have.  For example, with a term life insurance policy your spouse may have a right to half of the policy proceeds if you name someone else as the beneficiary (that person would receive the other half of the proceeds).

If you live in a community property state and want to name someone other than your better half as your life insurance sole beneficiary, it’s advisable to get – in writing – your spouse’s consent.

Read about a spouse’s right to life insurance money for more details.

Last updated: Aug. 21, 2014