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Girlfriend wants cut of late ex’s insurance money. Carolyn Hax readers give advice.

(Illustration by Nick Galifianakis for The Washington Post)
5 min

We asked readers to channel their inner Carolyn Hax and answer this question. Some of the best responses are below.

Dear Carolyn: I have been divorced for about five years, and my ex recently died. He left his life insurance to me presumably to use to help raise our three children. One is in college and the other two will soon follow, and this money could fund their tuitions. But his live-in girlfriend is asking that I split it with her. I don’t think I owe her that. Other than this money, he left a very small estate to his children and named his brother the executor.

Do I have a moral responsibility to give his girlfriend money from his life insurance? He never mentioned to me that he wanted that.

To Split Or Not To Split

To Split Or Not To Split: Using the deceased’s life insurance money to take care of his children seems pretty unimpeachable to me. But asking to override the deceased’s plans, executed by the deceased through a contract (that he had to pay regularly for or could see regularly taken out of his paycheck, etc.)? Knowing that would mean less money for his surviving children? Without providing so much as an anecdote suggesting that’s what the deceased wanted? Eyebrow-raising, concerning, entitled and/or a grief-related mistake.

Choose your framing for her behavior as generously as you feel able, say no and move forward. I’m so sorry for your loss.

— Becca H.

To Split Or Not To Split: I think you’re in the clear because you’re following your ex’s wishes as best you know them. He didn’t change his life insurance beneficiary to make her the payee, he set up his estate with his children benefiting in full instead of portioning it out with her as one of the beneficiaries, and he didn’t have a conversation with you about wishes.

Factors that might change my thinking: Did he ever have any conversations with his brother re: “Oh yeah, I need to update this at some point.” If your ex died of a longer illness, did the live-in girlfriend do a lot of unpaid caretaking before he died? Did she take leave from work for this? Has the live-in girlfriend been someone who was really good to or generous with your kids? In a way that they consider her family?

Actually, that last is probably the most important thing. If it’s a situation where the relationship was of shorter duration and the kids either dislike her or consider her nice enough but basically their dad’s girlfriend, that’s one thing. If the relationship was of longer duration and the kids benefited from it, love her and see her as a de facto stepmom? Then, yeah, modeling generosity and taking care of family could be important.

— Consideration

To Split Or Not To Split: I think you are generous to even consider sharing life insurance proceeds with your ex’s girlfriend. Life insurance is meant to help with expenses that the deceased would have contributed to if they were still living. Your children’s college tuitions are expenses your ex would have helped fund. Without his financial assistance, either you or your children could face hardships meeting their college expenses. I think you are under no moral obligation to provide funds to the girlfriend. If your ex had wanted some of the proceeds to go to her, he certainly could have revised the beneficiary distributions. My guess is that your ex and his girlfriend never thought about updating his life insurance policy. Or, he did, and he still wanted the proceeds to help you and the children.

— Annual Policy Reviews Recommended

To Split Or Not To Split: To answer your question, no, you are not morally obligated to split the insurance money with her. Five years is not really long, and, presumably, they haven’t been together the entire time. If your ex did not think to include his current live-in girlfriend in his will, why should you? I would tell her what you wrote in the letter: The insurance money will go toward raising his three children and college tuition. I don’t think anyone would consider that to be an unreasonable use of the money.

If you want to be nice, you could give her a portion of the money, if you feel you wouldn’t be jeopardizing your children’s future. The children are the most important consideration, since it’s going to be hard enough on them losing their father.

— In The Clear

To Split Or Not To Split: I don’t believe you have any moral obligation to give her anything. That said, it may be worth considering and discussing whether she is under an extreme burden due to his passing. For instance, is she unable to afford their rent and facing eviction? Should something of this sort prove to be true, I might consider giving her a smallish portion of the money to help her find stable ground.

Again, I think this would be an act of extreme generosity, not obligation. Unfortunately, it may well be generosity without appreciation if she feels she’s entitled to more.

— Brad

Every week, we ask readers to answer a question submitted to Carolyn Hax’s live chat or email. Read last week’s installment here. New questions are typically posted on Fridays, with a Monday deadline for submissions. Responses are anonymous unless you choose to identify yourself and are edited for length and clarity.