The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge, United States District Court Western District OF New York
WHEREAS, on or about June 27, 2011, plaintiff John Hancock Life Insurance Company (U.S.A.) ("John Hancock") filed an Interpleader Complaint against defendants Kira Lynn Dewey, a citizen of the State of New York, and the former spouse of Michael J. Dewey (deceased), "KLD", an infant under the age of 18 years of age, a citizen of the State of New York, and the surviving natural minor child of Michael J. Dewey (deceased), and "KMD", an infant under the age of 14 years of age, a citizen of the State of New York, and the surviving natural minor child of Michael J. Dewey (deceased). ("KLD" and "KMD" are collectively referred to herein as the "Infant Defendants");
WHEREAS, on or about November 18, 1998, John Hancock issued an individual term life insurance policy number 67227156 (hereinafter "the Policy"), in the face amount of $250,000 on the life of Michael J. Dewey. (A copy of the Policy is annexed as Exhibit C to the accompanying Declaration of James V. O'Gara (hereinafter referred to as "O'Gara Decl".);
WHEREAS, the beneficiary designation in the application of the Policy identifies "Kira L. Dewey (wife of the Insured)" as beneficiary of the Policy in the event of the insured's death. The "Owner, Beneficiary" provision of the Policy also states, "If the Insured [Michael J. Dewey] dies and there is no surviving Beneficiary, you [the Owner-here Michael J. Dewey] will be the Beneficiary; but if you were the Insured, your estate will be the Beneficiary";
WHEREAS, in or about 2008, the New York State Estate, Powers and Trust Law §5-1.4(a) and (b) was amended to provide, in relevant part, as follows (emphasis added):
(a) Except as provided by the express terms of a governing instrument, a divorce (including a judicial separation as defined in subparagraph (f)(2)) or annulment of a marriage revokes any revocable (1) disposition or appointment of property made by a divorced individual to, or for the benefit of, the former spouse, including but not limited to a disposition or appointment by will, by security registration in beneficiary form (TOD), [or] by beneficiary designation in a life insurance policy.
(b)(1) Provisions of a governing instrument [the Policy] are given effect as if the former spouse had predeceased the divorced individual as of the time of the revocation.
WHEREAS, Michael J. Dewey and Kira Lynn Dewey were divorced on or about October 22, 2009, in an uncontested matrimonial action entitled, Kira L. Dewey v. Michael J. Dewey, County Court, Niagara County, New York, Index No. 137773/2009;
WHEREAS, as a result of said divorce, pursuant to EPTL §5-1.4(a), Kira Lynn Dewey's rights to any proceeds of the Policy were revoked and terminated as a matter of law;
WHEREAS, on or about November 2, 2010, Michael J. Dewey executed a Last Will and Testament (O'Gara Decl, Ex. D), designating his children as the sole residuary legatees of his estate in equal shares per stirpes;
WHEREAS, Michael J. Dewey died on or about May 10, 2011, leaving the two surviving Infant Defendants;
WHEREAS, John Hancock did not receive any request to change the beneficiary designation in the Policy from Michael J. Dewey at any time prior to his death;
WHEREAS, pursuant to EPTL §5-1.4(b)(1) the divorced former spouse [Kira Lynn Dewey] is deemed to have predeceased Michael J. Dewey, leaving decedent's estate as the beneficiary of the Policy by operation of law;
WHEREAS, on or about October 26, 2011, the Hon. Matthew J. Murphy, Niagara County Surrogate, under Filed No. 2011-85679, admitted to probate the will of Michael J. Dewey, dated November 2, 2010, and ...