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Post: The Moneyist: ‘We believe his ex-wife put her up to this’: My stepdaughter asked me why I am the beneficiary of her father’s life insurance instead of her

Dear Quentin, 

One of my husband’s children told me she was shocked when her dad told her I was the primary beneficiary of his life insurance. The next day I received two texts from my stepdaughter stating that she could not understand why her father did not include his three kids on his life insurance. 

What’s more, my stepdaughter said that she feels he doesn’t love her, and she asked me to give her a reason why her father didn’t put her and/or her siblings on his life insurance. We believe his ex-wife put her up to this. I am unsure how I should respond to her claims. 

We are now going to put together a will, and get a lawyer to make sure this is all tightly stated correctly. I have children of my own as well. This stepdaughter feels that she has a right to whatever her father owns since she lived longer with him. What are your thoughts?

Wife and Stepmother 

Dear Stepmother,

Some children want the biggest slice of apple pie and ice cream. Others want your life insurance. 

Whatever your stepdaughter says, this conversation is not about love. It’s primarily about money. It is inappropriate to have this conversation with you, as the beneficiary. She is leveraging whatever guilt and pressure she can to steer the life insurance her way. 

We should not be held hostage to other people’s text messages. No response is a response. Electronic communication is an inadequate form of communication. Emails and texts should be left for housekeeping issues — “I’ll be 5 minutes late!” — rather than important life issues. 

The primary purpose of life insurance is to provide a payout to the remaining dependent — often times the person’s partner or spouse who may be left with a reduced income — rather than inheritance for children. It’s also not a testament of someone’s love for another person.

In addition to covering living expenses, a mortgage, medical expenses, funeral costs or any other debts, life insurance can also bring a person peace of mind. Simply knowing that it’s there is enough. He may wish to explain that to his daughter, but he is under no obligation to do so.

To measure love with money misunderstands both concepts.

To measure love with money misunderstands both concepts. If people did not mix up the two, there would likely be far fewer letters to the Moneyist about inheritance or property. Parents would not, for instance, feel coerced into quit-claiming their properties to their children

Your husband has every right to name you as beneficiary on his life-insurance policy. He does not need to get into an argy-bargy with his daughter about what she believes she deserves. And you can pick up the phone if you wish to respond, and say, “Talk to your father.”

He could tell her, “It’s inappropriate for you to quiz me about my estate plans and involve your stepmother. If I grilled you, and said you didn’t love me enough to leave me a portion of your assets, how would you feel?” Like she’d just eaten five-day-old fish, is my guess.

Your stepdaughter is not the first person to weaponize life insurance as a way to show love or a lack thereof, and she definitely won’t be the last. 

Check out the Moneyist private Facebook group, where we look for answers to life’s thorniest money issues. Readers write in to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Post your questions, tell me what you want to know more about, or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

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