Life Insurance And Beneficiary Designation

Here’s a case dealing with when a beneficiary designation was filed.  It is a 1995, opinion from the Eastland Court of Appeals and is styled, Maris v. McCraw.
When Maris died in 1987, per personnel file did not contain a written beneficiary designation form designating any person as the beneficiary of her life insurance proceeds.  Maris was survived by her estranged husband and two children from a prior marriage.  The children filed a declaratory judgment action against the husband contending they were entitled to the insurance proceeds because Maris signed and filed the appropriate form with the employing office designating them as beneficiaries and because the beneficiary designation was subsequently lost.  The jury found in favor of the children.  The husband appealed.
On appeal, the trial court judgment in favor of the children was affirmed.  The jury found that before she died, Maris filed a designation of beneficiary.  Before death, Maris signed and filed a “designation of beneficiaries” naming her two children as the beneficiaries of her civil service retirement and “unpaid compensation.”  Two co-employees testified that whenever employees signed the “unpaid compensation form,” they also signed the life insurance beneficiary designation form.  The children also introduced into evidence a handwritten beneficiary designation form.  There was also evidence that it was Maris’ habit to complete handwritten duplicate forms before typing and filing the originals.  Maris’ mother testified that Maris’ personnel file did not contain either the unpaid compensation beneficiary form or the civil service retirement beneficiary form but that these two designation forms were actually filed in Maris’ personal file at home.  There was no evidence that Maris intended to name or ever named her estranged husband as the beneficiary of any property.  Therefore, the circumstantial evidence shows that it is more probable that Maris did, in fact, sign and file the original insurance beneficiary designation form.  The evidence shows that Maris intended for her property to go to her children and not to her estranged husband.
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