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Cook v. Equitable Life Assurance Society

Indiana Court of Appeals
428 N.E.2d 110 (1981)



Douglas Cook bought a life insurance policy from Equitable Life Assurance (Equitable) (plaintiff) while he was married to Doris Combs (defendant). The policy named Doris as beneficiary. Years later, Douglas and Doris divorced. The divorce decree did not mention the life insurance policy but did provide that the agreement served as full satisfaction of all claims between the two. Douglas then married Margaret Cook (defendant), with whom he had a son named Daniel (defendant). The terms of the life insurance policy provided that Douglas could only change the beneficiary by providing written notice to Equitable, but Douglas gave no such notice. Douglas did, however, execute a holographic will. The will provided that the life insurance policy from Equitable was to go to Margaret and Daniel. Douglas died three years later. Margaret made a claim on the policy. Instead of paying Margaret, Equitable filed an interpleader action for a determination of who was entitled to the proceeds of the policy and deposited the funds with the court. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Doris, and Margaret and Daniel appealed to the Court of Appeals of Indiana, arguing that they were entitled to the life insurance policy on the basis of Douglas’s will, despite the fact that Douglas had not complied with the policy requirements for changing the beneficiary.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Ratliff, J.)

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