Trusts and Estates

Estate of Post

Cite as A151975
Filed June 22, 2018, California Court of Appeal, First District, Div. 1

By Golnaz Yazdchi
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP

Decedent Jerome Norman Post purchased a life insurance policy during his lifetime and named his then-spouse, Angela Post, as the primary beneficiary, and his sons from a prior marriage, Kenneth Post and Eric Post, as the contingent beneficiaries. Decedent was divorced at the time of his death, but he had not changed the beneficiary designation on his life insurance policy to remove his former spouse as the primary beneficiary. He had executed a codicil to his will shortly before his death expressing his strong desire that his former spouse receive nothing from him after his death, including by beneficiary designation. Decedentā€™s sons sought an Order designating them as the rightful beneficiaries of the decedentā€™s life insurance policy under Probate Code Sections 5040 and 9611. The trial court found in favor of the sons, and issued an order naming them as the proper beneficiaries of the life insurance proceeds.

The Court of Appeal reversed. The court, sitting in probate, has no jurisdiction over life insurance policies where the decedentā€™s estate has no interest in the proceeds. A beneficiary under an insurance policy takes under an insurance contract, and not pursuant to the laws of succession. Thus, because the trial court had no jurisdiction over the subject matter of the order (i.e., the life insurance proceeds), the trial courtā€™s order was void.

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