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Husband puts lover as death beneficiary over wife…then he kills himself

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.

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About Audra L.

Audra L. is an author, columnist and community activist who's dedicated to finding truth through research and effective communication. She received her degree in Public Policy and teaches Community Development, Public Speaking and Communications Law to youth throughout the nation. She is the recipient of over 23 awards and honors for her commitment to community outreach initiatives.

2 comments

  1. Okay, seriously people! The article said that Ms. Gobuleva wanted to “leavs, too!” whatever that means since there apparently was no specificity to that comment that anyone, besides she, knows about. And I’m not going to speculate on her meaning.

    She also said that she doesn’t want the money since she considers it to be blood money. Sounds reasonable to me since the guy did committ suicide. Plus it has been 3 months since she could start to claim it, and she apparently hasn’t moved in that direction. So maybe she’s telling the truth that she doesn’t want it.

    Even if she did change her mind (of her own accord) in the future so she could claim it, I don’t think she and her 3 kids should see even one red cent of it. So I suggest trying not to “guilt or shame” her in to claiming it just because you doubt her motives. Basically, give her the benefit of the doubt.

    IMHO, though, it rightfully should go to the officer’s estranged wife and daughter. As the old, but still ever relevant and true saying goes, paraphrasing, “Stay ever true to and take care of the family that you have with your spouse one hundred percent and you will be a truly happy person.”

    Even though the officer fell short in that duty, at least the money might make up for at least some of the hurt and grief he caused his family. They should be getting the full $810,000, but $210K is better than nothing, for sure.

    But, unfortunately, the pension rules being what they are, the wife and daughter very well might not see any of that money. But I hope they do. So keep up the good fight, Mrs. Morehouse!

  2. If I were the wife I would fight with the arguement that my husband was obviously not in his right mind because he killed himself.

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