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In re Estate of Johnson

304 P.3d 614 (2012)

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In re Estate of Johnson

Colorado Court of Appeals

304 P.3d 614 (2012)

Facts

Jeffrey Johnson was married to Laurel Christensen (plaintiff) and named Christensen as the primary beneficiary of his life-insurance policy. This policy stated that (1) an insured needed to send written notice to the insurance company to remove or change the policy’s beneficiaries and (2) if no living beneficiary existed at the policyholder’s death, the policy proceeds would go to the policyholder’s estate. Johnson and Christensen later got divorced, and the divorce decree released any claims Christensen had on Johnson’s life-insurance policy. However, Johnson did not tell the insurance company to change the beneficiary listed on his policy, and Christensen was still listed as the policy’s beneficiary when Johnson died two years later. As the listed beneficiary, Christensen filed a claim against Johnson’s estate (defendant) for the policy’s proceeds. The trial court denied the claim. The trial court ruled that, under a state statute, the divorce had automatically removed Christensen from Johnson’s life-insurance policy. Christensen appealed, arguing that the statute could not change the policy’s contractual requirement that Johnson had to request any beneficiary changes in writing.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Fox, J.)

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