The Supreme Court's Decision in Hillman v. Maretta: The Perils of Beneficiary Designation (PDF)

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The Supreme Court applied the preemption doctrine to hold that the former spouse designated as a beneficiary in a life insurance policy procured under a federal law is entitled to the policy's proceeds rather than the decedent's spouse at the time of his death, where he never amended the policy after his divorce. This despite Virginia's law to the contrary. This commentary analyzes the issues involved and various states' laws on the matter.

 

Leo P. Martinez is the Albert Abramson Professor of Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law; co-editor, with Marc Mayerson, Douglas R. Richmond, and Jeffrey Thomas of The New Appleman Insurance Practice Guide (LexisNexis 2013); co-author with Douglas R. Richmond of Insurance Law (West Publishing 2013); adviser to the American Law Institute project on Principles of the Law of Liability Insurance; and member of the Editorial Board of The New Appleman on Insurance Law Library Edition.

 

The author appreciates the insights provided by Margie Lariviere, a partner with the San Francisco Office of Gordon and Rees, and by his friend and colleague, Professor David Faigman. The author is also grateful for the diligent and able research assistance of Emily Goldberg, Hastings class of 2015. Errors are of course entirely the author's.

 

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