Mike Smith, 48, was a married NYPD community affairs officer who named his lover as his death benefit beneficiary months before he committed suicide, according to the New York Post.
Smith was separated from his wife, Elizabeth Ann Morehouse, at the time and was residing instead with his 37-year-old girlfriend, Zoya Golubeva. Unfortunately, Golubeva wanted to leave too.
Smith was apparently so heartbroken he felt compelled to show his unyielding love for Golubeva writing a note that read, “I love you more than you’ll ever know,” and then fatally shooting himself in the forehead. The “love” that he left for her was actually $810,000 that he cut from both his wife and 14-year-old daughter.
Pension systems don’t notify spouses when beneficiary changes are made
You would think that such a move by Smith would somehow be detected by the wife prior to his passing. He changed his beneficiary months before he committed suicide, so why didn’t his wife know of this?
As it turns out pension systems are not required to notify a spouse when a member decides to change their beneficiary. “It is not unusual for pension members to change beneficiaries without telling their spouse,” said John Murphy, a former executive director of NYCERS, one of the city’s pension systems. “They fall in love with someone else and then decide to leave the money with them instead” Murphy continued.
It comes as no surprise that Smith’s wife decided to fight this, of course, although it won’t be easy given the fact that most members have a legal right to place whomever they choose to be the beneficiary. Luckily for Morehouse, there is a state law that provides a bit of protection to disinherited spouses, but it only allows about a third of his pension benefits (totaling no more than $270,000).
Morehouse is filing a “right of election” claim for the amount, but it can be contested by Golubeva. According to Nicole Giambarrese, the pension fund’s general counsel, the fund is legally obligated to honor a member’s designated fund—meaning, Smith’s wife and their daughter will truly have an uphill battle in any attempts to claim any of the funds.
Golubeva, Smith’s girlfriend, originally stated that she did not want the funds because she considered it to be “blood money” that she wanted no part of. After a few months, however, Golubeva has failed to respond to anyone who questions her motive to accept the money left for her and her three children.
Additionally, she has not signed any documentation that relieved her of receiving the funds left behind for her benefit. “This is soap opera stuff,” Murphy said when attempting to explain the situation in only a few words. Needless to say, Smith’s wife is still fighting to reclaim what she feels belongs to both she and their daughter.