Husband's pre-divorce beneficiary change disinherits wife

Husband and Wife married in 1996, and Husband later obtained a term life-insurance policy, naming wife as the beneficiary of the $1 million death benefit.  In April 2012, after consulting with an attorney but before serving the Petition, Husband changed the beneficiary designation, naming his parents and sister instead. 

This was momentous because once she was served, by statute, neither party was permitted to change any insurance beneficiaries -- including life insurance beneficiaries.

When Husband died four months later while the divorce was still pending. Thereafter there was a fight between this wife and his mom & sister over the $1 million in life insurance proceeds. 

Wife elected against Husband’s estate in probate court (he’d also written Wife out of his will), and sued in civil court for the life insurance proceeds.  On summary judgment, Wife cited the marital dissipation statute (Minn. Stat. 518.58, subd. 1a), and argued that Husband’s changed the beneficiary designation in contemplation of divorce, and thus Wife was entitled to be placed in the position she would have been in had the change not occurred.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the District Court ruling that the divorce action died with Husband and thus Wife can't claim the proceeds under the divorce statutes.

Click here to read more: Nelson  v. Nelson, A14-0200 (Minn. Ct. App. Oct. 6, 2014).