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Ex-wife must pay life insurance to Estate; not protected by ERISA rules

Kathleen Wright, formerly Kathleen Sanger, had been divorced from her husband for 14 years when Edwin Sanger died. The marriage had lasted only two years when the couple divorced in 1992, and the rights of each spouse to the other's life insurance was expressly extinguished in the judgment of divorce.  Edwin never wrote to his insurer to change the beneficiary, however, and under ERISA rules, the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company paid the proceeds of his policy to his ex, Kathleen. 

Edwin's Estate sued to recover the policy proceeds and Wright argued that she didn't have to pay the money back because of ERISA rules governing payment.  The Court rejected this claim, noting that the ERISA rules applied to protect Metropolitan, but not her. The Estate was within its rights to sue to enforce the divorce judgment, the Court held.  No wonder the marriage only lasted two years.
Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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