Houston, TX asked in Divorce, Probate and Estate Planning for Texas

Q: Divorce DECREE Divested moms ex-husband of all benefits & life insurance but Valero paid him anyways. What do I do?

Mom divorce 02-12-18 Mom passes away 02-13-18. Divorce DECREE Divested him of all financial,interest bearing,money markets accts& life insurance policies. Life insurance is a Welfare Benefit in Texas,and he signed off rights to Moms pension but Valero paid him still. Probate Attorney filed Motion to Clearify Declatory Judgement requesting ex-husband return the money,but nothings been done. I started asking questions about my inheritance ,and the Probate attorney filed a Motion to Withdraw as Attorney for my Mom's Estate. How do I find out if he collected my inheritance?

1 Lawyer Answer
John Michael Frick
John Michael Frick
  • Frisco, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: You should contact the personal representative of your mother's estate. If you are an heir of your mother's estate, you should have received a notice, which could be as simple as a letter, notifying you who that individual is. If you did not receive such a letter, you can look that information up on the probate court's website. You might also check to see if the personal representative filed an Inventory, Appraisement, and List of Claims identifying what assets your mother left to be inherited and what creditors or other claims have been paid by her estate.

A life insurance company is required to pay the death benefit owed under the policy to the beneficiary named by the policyholder. Ordinarily, life insurance proceeds pass outside the probate process. On the other hand, if your mother never named another beneficiary on the policy, the proceeds would pass to her estate. Her estate could sue the ex-husband for the amount wrongly paid to him (at common law, such a suit is known as "assumpsit"; in contemporary times, it is usually referred to as "money had and received").

Of course, the estate would incur attorney fees prosecuting such a lawsuit which would have to be paid out of the money the estate has. So, the personal representative of your mother's estate might have to make a decision whether to spend the estate money on an attorney or to simply transfer the chose in action to the heirs of your mother's estate, including you. You could then decide whether it is worthwhile to hire an attorney to sue the ex-husband.

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