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Who Wins, the Brother or the Husband?

July 16, 2015
By: Frank Scahill

Who Wins, the Brother or the Husband?

A recent case in the Second Department had all the makings of a bar exam question. Husband and wife were married from 1995 to 2012, when the wife died. In 2008, the wife took out a life insurance policy naming the husband as beneficiary. In 2009, the husband filed for divorce. In 2012, the wife changed the beneficiary under the policy to her brother. In 2012, before the judgment of divorce was entered, the wife dies. Who gets the proceeds from the policy. Brother or husband? The lower court found for the husband and the brother appealed.
The husband wins. (See Reliastar Life Ins. Co. of New York v. Cristando, No. 2014-01064, 2015 WL 3478040 (N.Y. App. Div. June 3, 2015).

"The Supreme Court properly directed the plaintiff to pay the proceeds of the decedent's life insurance policy to Cristando rather than to Lozada because, by changing the primary beneficiary of her life insurance policy from Cristando to Lozada while the divorce action was still pending, the decedent violated the automatic orders (see Domestic Relations Law § 236[B][2]; see also Sykes v. Sykes, 35 Misc.3d 591, 595). Lozada's remaining contentions are either not properly before this Court or without merit. Accordingly, the order is affirmed insofar as appealed from. "

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