In re: Life Insurance Policy No. 1642947-2, Issued to Brenda DeJoode (f/k/a Brenda Main)
Isanti County District Court File No. 30-CV-12-296.
Leon R. Erstad, Nicholas H. Jakobe, Erstad & Riemer, P.A., Bloomington, Minnesota (for appellant Gerald DeJoode as personal representative of the estate).
William G. Peterson, Peterson Law Office, P.A., Bloomington, Minnesota (for respondent Mark Main).
Considered and decided by Rodenberg, Presiding Judge; Larkin, Judge; and Chutich, Judge.
Appellant Gerald DeJoode, as personal representative of the estate of Brenda DeJoode,  challenges the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of respondent Mark Main, concluding that, as the named beneficiary, Main is entitled to the proceeds of his ex-wife's life insurance policy. Appellant argues that Minn. Stat. § 524.2-804 (2012) automatically revokes a former spouse's beneficiary designation upon divorce. Because Minn. Stat. § 524.2-804 applies to this case and revoked Main's beneficiary status, we reverse and remand.
Brenda DeJoode (DeJoode) married Main in 1991. On November 3, 1997, the couple purchased American Family Life Insurance Policy No. 1642947-2 insuring DeJoode's life and identifying "Mark D. Main (Husband)" as the primary beneficiary and DeJoode's estate as the contingent beneficiary under the policy. As the owner of the policy, DeJoode had the authority to change her listed beneficiaries at any time. She never changed the beneficiary designation.
In 2002, the Minnesota legislature amended Minn. Stat. § 524.2-804. 2002 Minn. Laws ch. 347, § 2, at 672-73. Before the 2002 amendment, the statute applied only to wills and not to beneficiary designations. 2002 Minn. Laws ch. 347, § 2. The statute now reads, in pertinent part: "Except as provided by the express terms of a governing instrument, . . . the dissolution or annulment of a marriage revokes any revocable disposition, beneficiary designation, or appointment of property made by an individual to the individual's former spouse in a governing instrument." Minn. Stat. § 524.2-804, subd. 1, 1(1). The 2002 amendment extended to beneficiary designations the rule that "[p]rovisions of a governing instrument are given effect as if the former spouse died immediately before the dissolution or annulment." Minn. Stat. § 524.2-804, subd. 2.
On May 25, 2011, Main and DeJoode's marriage was dissolved pursuant to an agreement, which was carried forward into a judgment and decree. In the findings of fact section, the divorce decree stated that "[t]he parties each own a term-life insurance policy with no cash value." However, the life insurance policies were not specifically discussed in the district court's conclusions of law. The divorce decree contained no provision regarding beneficiary designations under the life insurance policies.
DeJoode died on December 26, 2011. In January 2012, Main contacted American Family to collect the life insurance proceeds. American Family determined that, due to Minn. Stat. § 524.2-804, "the designation of Mark Main as beneficiary might have been automatically revoked when the couple divorced in May 2011." American Family therefore moved to deposit the life insurance proceeds into court pending a determination of the proper beneficiary. On May 29, 2012, the district court granted American Family's motion, directed it to pay the proceeds into the court, and discharged it from all further claims and proceedings.
Main then moved for summary judgment, arguing that he was entitled to DeJoode's life insurance proceeds. In his memorandum in support of the motion, Main stated that he "always paid the premiums on said insurance contract." Furthermore, he claimed that "Brenda DeJoode knew Mark Main was the beneficiary on the Insurance Contract and wanted Mark Main to continue to be the ...