A 1938, opinion from the Amarillo Court of Appeals helps answer the above question. The case is styled, Smith v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. et al.
This lawsuit is a contest over the proceeds of a life insurance policy in the sum of $500 issued upon the life of John Wesley Smith by Metropolitan. At the time the policy was issued the insured was an employee of Southern Pacific Railway Company, but prior to his death, he had been retired by the railway company and collecting a $40 a month pension.
The record reveals that in June, 1927, the insured was married to Jessie Smith, who was plaintiff in the trial court. Long prior to the issuance of the policy the insured had ceased to live with the Smith, although they were never divorced. The policy was originally payable to Emaline Bell and Ella White, who were shown by the record to be the nieces of the insured. In March, 1936, the insured designated his niece, Ella White, as the sole beneficiary in the policy, such designation having been authorized by the terms of the policy. The contest over the proceeds of the policy was therefore between the Smith, and Ella White joined by her husband, Rolly White. The insurance company acknowledged its liability upon the policy, paid the $500 into the registry of the court and was therefore discharged with $50 attorney’s fee allowed it as a stakeholder in the controversy. The trial court rendered judgment for the White, from which judgment Jessie Smith appealed.