Q: A father died, and he was married with 2 children in that marriage, a twelve-year-old and an eight-year-old. He also had a child from a previous relationship who is 18 years old and attending college. The father had three life insurance policies of $250,000, $250,000, and $200,000 for a total of $700,000. The widowed mother has no intention of giving the 18-year-old step-daughter any money. I don’t know how the policies are named, but I do know the widow does not want the step-daughter to know she received payouts from these policies. Does the eighteen-year- old have a legal claim to any of this life insurance money? (Scott Twp., PA)
A: Insurance policies will be paid to living beneficiaries of the decedent. If there are no living beneficiaries, the policy will likely be paid to the estate of the decedent. If there is no will in place, the proceeds of the policy will go in to the estate and paid to the intestate (no will) heirs. Under PA intestate law, the daughter is an heir. It is possible that the proceeds of this policy could have been addressed in a divorce or prenuptial agreement, which therefore could preempt the intestate or testate laws. If this child was a beneficiary listed on the policy or if there are no living beneficiaries on the policies, she has a chance of receiving money. If the step-mother is hiding the information on the policy, hire a lawyer to threaten her or take her to court.