SW Legal Educational Publishing

Life Insurance Beneficiary Not Changed By Terms of Will
Description Wife, who relinquished rights to husband's estate at time of divorce, is still entitled to life insurance proceeds as she was listed as beneficiary in an old policy that was never changed. General terms in a will designating other parties as beneficiaries of an estate, including its insurance, ordinarily do not overcome terms of a policy.
Topic Wills, Estates, and Trusts
Key Words Life Insurance; Beneficiary; Testament
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Kapcar had life insurance provided by his employer. His wife was named as beneficiary. Later, when the couple divorced, the settlement stated that the wife relinquished all interests in her husband's real and personal property and his estate. Years later, when Kapcar died, his will left everything, including insurance benefits, to his father. His ex-wife sued for the life insurance benefits, as she was still listed as beneficiary on the policy. There were conflicting decisions by the lower courts. Case appealed to the high court of New York.
Decision "As a general rule, under Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York law [the states that had a relationship to this action], the method prescribed by the insurance contract must be followed in order to effect a change of beneficiary." General testamentary statements are not enough to change the beneficiary. Here there is no evidence that decedent made any attempt to change the beneficiary designation during the years between his divorce and death. "In the absence of such evidence, the court is restrained from holding that it was the decedent's stated intention that his father receive the proceeds from the insurance policy."
Citation McCarthy v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., 1998 WL 802773 (Slip Copy, Ct. App., NY)
681 N.Y.S.2d 790 (Ct. App., N.Y., 1998)

Back to Wills, Estates, and Trusts Listings

©1998  South-Western, All Rights Reserved