Life Insurance Claim Lawyer – Ex Spouses

Life Insurance Attorney will quickly learn about Texas Family Code, Section 9.301.  This sections says that a spouse named as a beneficiary in a life insurance policy is automatically excluded upon divorce.

One of the first cases that discusses this issue is a 1981, Eastland Court of Appeals opinion.  It is styled, Pilot Life Ins. Co. v. Koch.  The opinion focuses on wording of the policy.  Be aware of exceptions to the general rule.

This is a declaratory judgment case.  Pilot Life Insurance Company sought a judgment declaring that it had no duty to pay life insurance proceeds to Lawrence A. Koch because of the death of his wife.  Pilot Life had issued a policy of group insurance to Koch’s employer.  The policy afforded life insurance coverage for employees and their eligible dependents. Eligible dependents were defined to include “your husband or wife, unless you were legally separated or divorced.”  Pilot Life alleged that Mr. and Mrs. Koch were legally separated on the date of her death.

Mr. and Mrs. Koch separated and began living apart on December 23, 1977.  On March 23, 1978, Mrs. Koch filed suit for divorce.  Temporary orders were entered on March 24, 1978.

Mrs. Koch died September 16, 1978.  It was much in dispute whether there was a reconciliation between the parties prior to her death.  The evidence did show that the parties lived in separate residences until Mrs. Koch died.

The issue is whether the parties were legally separated at the time of Mrs. Koch’s death.  The term “legally separated” as used in the insurance policy is not specifically defined in the policy, nor have we found a Texas case that defines the term.  Therefore, this court must ascertain the meaning of the term.

This Court ruled that a reasonable construction of the policy language, “unless you were legally separated or divorced,” means finality of judgment.

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