Egelhoff v. Egelhoff
United States Supreme Court
532 U.S. 141 (2001)
David A. Egelhoff (David, Sr.) and Donna Rae Egelhoff (defendant) divorced in April 1994. Approximately two months later, David died intestate after a car accident. While they were married, David had designated Donna Rae as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy and pension plan provided by his employer, Boeing Company, both of which were governed by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). After life insurance proceeds totaling $46,000 were paid to Donna Rae as the named beneficiary of the policy, Samantha and David Egelhoff (David, Jr.) (plaintiffs), David’s children from a prior marriage, commenced two separate actions against Donna Rae in Washington state court to recover the insurance proceeds and the pension plan benefits. In both actions Samantha and David Jr. claimed a Washington statute had revoked the beneficiary designation of Donna Rae by operation of law because Dona Rae and David, Sr. were divorced at the time of his death. The state statute on which they relied provided that any nonprobate asset, defined to include “a life insurance policy” or “employee benefit plan,” that is payable or transferable upon death to a former spouse is revoked and treated as though the surviving spouse had predeceased the decedent spouse. Following a ruling by the Supreme Court of Washington in favor of Samantha and David, Jr., Donna Rae petitioned the United States Supreme Court for review of the decision.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)
Dissent (Breyer, J.)
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