A federal district court in Pennsylvania has ruled that the estranged wife of a doctor who committed suicide was entitled to the proceeds of a life insurance policy on his life, notwithstanding his attempt to remove her as beneficiary, where the couple previously had reached a marital settlement agreement that allocated the policy to her.
After Kelly O. Justofin married Dr. Christopher D. Justofin, New York Life Insurance Company issued a life insurance policy on the life of Dr. Justofin with Ms. Justofin as the primary beneficiary.
In February 2013, the Justofins, who had become estranged, jointly executed a marital settlement agreement that contained a section that set forth the various types of marital property the couple owned and designated the assets that should belong to each party.
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On July 15, 2013, Dr. Justofin executed a change of beneficiary request redesignating Twila Bankes, as custodian for a minor child, as the sole beneficiary of his New York Life policy.
Five days later, and before New York Life had updated its records to reflect the change of beneficiary request, Dr. Justofin committed suicide.
Competing claims for the proceeds of the policy were made by Ms. Justofin and the minor’s custodian, Ms. Bankes. New York Life paid the proceeds of the policy – $400,000 – into a federal district court in Pennsylvania and asked the court to determine the proper beneficiary.
The court’s decision