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In 2008, Gov. Patterson signed into law the amended EPTL 5-1.4, which actually does specifically this.
The effective date of the law is anyone dying on or after July 7, 2008, and automatically revokes any beneficiary designation of the spouse upon divorce. Now if after that time the beneficiary is "affirmed" by the owner of the policy, then it will be back in effect. But there has to either be such a reaffirmation, or an "opt out" designation in the original document (that says that divorce will not change the disposition).
Also, if the divorce decree spells out that the beneficiary will stay the same, the decree will override the law.
If none of these apply, though, there's no recourse to get the full face value of the policy.
That being said, you could have a claim against the estate for the monies that were paid towards the policy during this time, under an "unjust enrichment" legal theory.
That being said, you need to contact an attorney in your area that deals with probate claim cases. Go to www.lawyers.com or www.legalmatch.com to find an attorney in your area. You should be able to find one that will give you a free initial consultation and better advise you of your rights, any problems with your case, likelihood of success, how courts are treating cases such as yours in your area, and what you should do next.
As to a duty to notify, they're correct in this regard. Unless the law specifically says that they have to notify you (such as privacy policies, truth in lending, or other legally mandated disclosures) they're under no obligation to notify you as to changes in the law. This could actually be practicing law without a license, and so often they would not do it even if they wanted to.
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