Life Insurance – Homicide

Life Insurance attorneys will eventually have a case where the benefits of a life insurance policy are being denied for the stated reason that the beneficiary of the life insurance policy willfully brought about the death of the insured. The United States District Court, Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division, had this issue in a case. It is a 2015 case styled, Garrett Bean and Aneilia Bean v. Minerva Alcorta.
Gary Bean was the father of Garrett and Aneilia Bean (plaintiffs). Gary was killed by a gunshot wound. Gary had life insurance and the insurance company inter-pled the life insurance benefits into the registry of the court.
Minerva was the primary beneficiary under the policy. Minerva was the boyfriend of Gary and at the scene of the homicide, Minerva hysterically told policy that she had shot her boyfriend. Due to the circumstances, plaintiffs made claim to the policy benefits stating the Minerva had forfeited her rights to the policy benefits by intentionally causing the death of Gary and that plaintiffs were, as a result, the proper claimants to the life insurance benefits.
Both plaintiffs and Minerva filed motions for summary judgment explaining why they were respectively entitled to the policy benefits.
Under Texas Insurance Code, Section 1103.151, the Texas slayer statute, “[a] beneficiary of a life insurance policy or contract forfeits the beneficiary’s interest in the policy or contract if the beneficiary is a principal or an accomplice in wilfully bringing about the death of the insured.” Case law is clear in that a beneficiary need not be convicted of murder to forfeit his or her interest in the policy. Section 1103.151 does not require a “final conviction” before a beneficiary forfeits his rights to the proceeds. Instead, a party seeking to establish that a beneficiary has forfeited his or her right to collect on the policy need only prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the beneficiary willfully brought about the death of the insured. This may be proven by circumstantial evidence.
This court then reviewed evidence in the case and noted plaintiffs arguement that the following evidence conclusively establishes that Minerva willfully shot and killed Gary Bean: (1) her indictment for manslaughter, (2) the police and autopsy reports, (3) her invocation of her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and (4) the timing of Gary Bean’s death and the nature of his plaintiffs relationship with Minerva. Minerva contends that none of plaintiffs’ evidence identifies her as the person who shot Gary Bean, and that the evidence does not suggest that the death was caused willfully or intentionally.
Here, Minerva has not pled guilty or been convicted of any crime in connection with Gary Bean’s death. Both Texas and federal law are equally clear that an indictment is not evidence of guilt.
Plaintiffs contended that the police report from the night of the shooting and Gary Bean’s autopsy report show by a preponderance of the evidence that Minerva willfully caused Gary Bean’s death.
However, as Minerva points out, the police report still suffers in that it does not identify Minerva as the woman who told officers she shot her boyfriend. As the Court explained before, the police report includes the following statement:
[W]e approached the front door and began knocking several times for someone to answer. A short time (seconds) later a female (later to be identified as AP) came to the door on her cell phone crying histerically [sic] with blood on both hands and on her shirt. (AP) then stated “I shot my boyfriend, please help him.”
However, the report does not identify who “(AP)” is, and the Court again finds that given this gap in the evidence, the police report cannot support plaintiffs’ contention that Minerva shot and killed Gary Bean. The autopsy report presents a similar problem. While it shows that Gary Bean died of a gunshot wound, nothing in the report identifies the shooter.
Other evidence was in this case and it is interesting reading.
The main issue to be taken from this case is understanding what courts look at before determining that a life insurance beneficiary has forfeited rights to policy benefits under the Texas Slayer Statute.