Circuit Court Reversed in Civil Appeal Concerning Annuity Benefits After Divorce
William K. “Chip” Bradford was successful in civil appeal that reversed the circuit court’s judgment awarding insurance annuity benefits to the son of the deceased instead of the ex-spouse who was still listed as beneficiary. In this civil appeal case, the former wife died two years after the divorce was final. The divorce judgment contained language stating that the husband gave up any interest in “insurance policies.” However, the ex-wife never removed the husband as the beneficiary on the policy. The surviving son of the Wife was listed as a secondary beneficiary. After the woman’s death, both ex-husband and the son made claims on the insurance annuity money. The insurance company filed a lawsuit asking the Court to decide who should get the money.
The Jefferson County Alabama Circuit Court ruled that the reference in the divorce judgment to the ex-husband giving up his interest in “insurance policies” was specific enough to override the beneficiary provision in the policy. Bradford was retained as appellate counsel after the adverse judgment in the Circuit Court to file a civil appeal. An appeal was filed arguing that Alabama Law required much more specific language in the divorce judgment in order to override the naming of a beneficiary.
The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals agreed, and issued an Opinion on July 17, 2015 reversing the judgment of the circuit court and remanding the case back for the Circuit Court to enter a judgment in favor of Bradford’s client, the ex-husband. The appeals court held that the reference to an insurance policy in a divorce settlement or judgment must be very specific in order to be effective in overriding a listing of an ex-spouse as a beneficiary.
It is not necessarily uncommon for a divorce to include provisions under which the parties are allowed to change the beneficiary of insurance policies to remove their ex-spouse. However, from time to time the divorced party fails to take the proper steps to change the beneficiary, resulting in the ex-spouse still being listed as the beneficiary of the policy. This civil appeal emphasizes the importance of proper follow up action after a divorce judgment or settlement.
William Robert Kowalski v. Tyler H. Upchurch, Court of Civil Appeals No. 2131059 / CV 13-925
Read the civil appeal Opinion here
For more information on Alabama Civil, Criminal, and Divorce Appeals, please visit www.alabama-appellate.com.