Dear Penny: Can My Evil Ex-Husband of 38 Years Buy Life Insurance on Me?

A man sits at his kitchen table with the spirit of his ex wife behind him.
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Dear Penny,

My ex is a gold digger, on top of being financially rich. Our son had brain cancer for four and a half years. I took care of him his entire life from age 10, including the four and a half years of brain cancer as an adult alone. 

I need to know if my ex of 38 years is legally allowed to take out an insurance policy. He was never, ever involved in our children's lives. He disappeared when our sons (twins) were 10 years old. We did not hear from him until our sons were 18.

My ex even professed to say he “did not know him” after our son was buried and my ex left. I paid for my son's life, college, funeral and burial expenses, etc. Because of this, I never had any money left over to take out a life insurance policy on any of my children or even myself.

Can I get any money from my extremely rich ex of 38 years? Can my ex of 38 years take out and collect on any life insurance policies on the twins and daughter and me?

ALL he thinks about is money. He lives in a gated Florida community where houses are $800,000 to $100 million. ALL his second wife thinks about is herself. Even at my son's funeral she thought of only herself. Is there any money or benefits from my ex for me?


Dear J.,

You’ve experienced a heartbreaking loss. I understand why you want to be sure that your ex-husband didn’t profit off the death of your son, especially since he’s led a lavish lifestyle while you struggled as a single parent.

To take out a life insurance policy on someone else, you need to have an insurable interest in their life. What this means is that you’d suffer financial harm in the event of their death. Parents are presumed to have an insurable interest in the lives of their minor children. In fact, some parents and grandparents buy whole life insurance for infants as a hybrid savings vehicle and insurance policy.

Spouses are also presumed to have an insurable interest in each other’s lives. Ex-spouses do as well in some cases. For example, some divorce decrees will require an ex-spouse to buy life insurance and make the other person the beneficiary if they’ve been ordered to pay child support or alimony. But to buy life insurance on an adult, you also need their knowledge and consent.

Essentially, here’s what all this means for you and your kids: There’s a chance your ex could have taken out life insurance on your children when they were minors. But he would have needed their permission to buy a policy on them as adults. As for you, he wouldn’t have been allowed to buy insurance on your life unless you consented to it or it was ordered as part of a divorce settlement.

There’s always the small chance your ex-husband could have taken out a fraudulent policy. If you suspect that this occurred, you can contact your state’s insurance bureau or use the MIB’s website to search for a policy in your name. (MIB is an insurance consumer reporting agency previously known as the Medical Information Bureau.)

Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like you have much recourse for getting money out of your ex-husband after 38 years. But if he failed to make court-ordered child support or alimony payments, it may be worth consulting with a family attorney.

Also, since you say your ex is wealthy, you may be able to collect more Social Security based on his record, rather than your own. The fact that he has remarried is irrelevant. If your marriage lasted at least 10 years and you’re not married, this could be an option.

It doesn’t sound like you have any reason to be involved with your ex-husband if your kids are all adults. Try to limit the information you receive about him and his second wife. Resist the urge to Google them or look them up on social media if you can. What you find will only make you angry. If your children have any contact with them, you can ask that they only relay information on a need-to-know basis.

As hard as this is, I think you need to let go of any hope that this man will make you financially whole. You stepped up for your children and did the job of two parents. I hope you take pride in that.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].