Elliott Greenleaf Protects Wife from Late Husband’s Last Minute Change of Beneficiary After Breach of Marital Settlement Agreement

Firm News

June 27, 2014

In a complex estate/contractual interpretation before the United States District Court, Elliott Greenleaf successfully affirmed an award of the proceeds of a term insurance policy in favor of a wife whose husband changed the beneficiary of the policy mere days before committing suicide. Following his death, the wife asserted a claim to the proceeds, leading the insurer filed an interpleader complaint in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The custodian for the new beneficiary, an unrelated minor, sought payment of the proceeds. Both parties disputed the competence of the decedent to make the changes. In addition, the husband previously sought from the wife and obtained a written property division under which modifications required written approval. The husband failed to convey and thereafter cashed and retained the proceeds of two other insurance policies that were the wife’s sole property under the agreement. Representing the wife, Elliott Greenleaf persuaded the Court that the late husband both breached the agreement and imposed a constructive trust on the remaining coverage, preventing any change that would remove the wife as beneficiary. Senior Judge Conaboy of the District Court found that sound legal and equitable principles dictated that the wife held a superior claim to the proceeds of the policy.

Shareholders Jack Dean and Debbie Simon represented the successful wife in this estate and contractual matter in the federal court in Scranton.