When Jerome Post bought a life insurance policy in 1993, he was looking out for his wife, Angela. He made her his primary beneficiary and his sons from a prior marriage his contingent beneficiaries.
In 2014, the couple divorced. Two years later, he died trying to disinherit his wife of 32 years: He signed a handwritten update to his will that stated he didn’t want Angela “inheriting anything from [him] under any circumstances.” Three days later, he died, preventing him from keeping his scheduled appointment the following week to remove Angela as the beneficiary of his life insurance policy.
Honoring Jerome’s final wishes, his sons Kenneth and Eric filed suit and won, making them the sole beneficiaries of the life insurance proceeds. But victory was short-lived: The appellate court concluded that the probate court had no jurisdiction over the insurance policy because Angela was named as the beneficiary at the date of Jerome’s death. Jerome’s estate had no legal interest in it.
Don’t make Jerome’s mistake. Carefully check marital settlement agreements, insurance policies, wills, and trusts with an estate lawyer if you and a partner are going your separate ways. And even if you’re not in Splitsville, always keep your beneficiary designations up to date to provide for those you love. Post v. Post, California, First District, Div. 2, A151975 (2018).
About the author:
John O’Grady leads a full-service estate and trust law firm in San Francisco. His practice includes Estate Planning & Administration, Probate and Trust Litigation.