Dear Ms. Allison: How can I make my mom pay for my college with my dad’s life insurance money? They’ve been divorced for 17 years and he died 2 years ago. Now that I’m 21, she won’t let me have the $100,000 life insurance money that was left in trust for me. She showed me the divorce decree and the trust that said she was the “Irrevocable Primary Beneficiary” with the minor child (me) as the “secondary beneficiary”. My whole family knows that the purpose of the life insurance was to take care of me, especially schooling. Victoria from Southeast Oklahoma
By showing you the divorce decree, you mother has given you all the proof a court will need to recognize that she is the irrevocable beneficiary of the trust to which your father’s life insurance was made payable. Being a secondary beneficiary means that her needs legally come first and yours are second.
The fact that you are now 21 would only matter if the Trust directed money to be distributed to you when you became 21. Otherwise, your age doesn’t matter in this discussion.
So, I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but at the end of the day, the Trust moneys are not likely to be yours. You need to read the terms of the Trust with your lawyer or estate mediator, however, as there may be additional language favorable to you. If there is nothing else designated for you, your needs are not primary to this Trust.
Your mother’s legal right to the money would take precedence over yours. If the divorce decree didn’t specify that she or your father must pay for your college education, your mother is not required to send you to college.
You should get an estate administration attorney to review the Trust terms in case there is something that is helpful. Win or lose it may cost you significant money for legal fees. It will almost surely destroy your relationship with your mother, and that may not be worth the price.
To your success, Gale Allison
*Originally published in May 2017 in the Gale Allison, PLLC website Asked & Answered blog based on questions from the public. Tags: Trust, Trust Administration, Trust Beneficiary. Gale Allison handles estate matters only: Probate, Estate or Trust Administration; Estate Litigation; Estate Planning; Business Succession Planning; and Estate-related Tax Issues at Schaffer Herring PLLC in Tulsa, OK. She also mediates Estate and Family disputes nationally, exclusively through Dispute Resolution Consultants (DRC-OK).