Lincoln Benefit Life Co. v. Guerrero

No. 14-1077 JCH/WPL, 2016 WL 4547157 (2016)

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Lincoln Benefit Life Co. v. Guerrero

United States District Court for the District of New Mexico
No. 14-1077 JCH/WPL, 2016 WL 4547157 (2016)

Facts

Neftaly Guerrero and Bertha Guerrero (plaintiff) divorced in 2003. Prior to the divorce, Neftaly purchased a $125,000 life-insurance policy from Lincoln Benefit Life Company (Lincoln Benefit) (plaintiff) and designated Bertha as his primary beneficiary. Bertha also purchased an insurance policy from Lincoln Benefit during the marriage and designated Neftaly as her primary beneficiary. The couple’s divorce decree did not mention the life-insurance policies. Neftaly did not change his policy’s beneficiary designation after the divorce. In 2008, Neftaly and Bertha met with an insurance agent to sever the two insurance policies. Bertha filled out an application to split the policies, and Neftaly signed Bertha’s application, authorizing the insurance split. Other than authorizing the split, Neftaly did not make any changes to his insurance policy. The insurance agent informed Neftaly that he could change his beneficiary designation, but Neftaly declined to fill out a change-of-beneficiary form. Neftaly did not tell the insurance agent that he wanted to keep Bertha as beneficiary, nor did he tell the agent that he wanted to designate a new beneficiary. Bertha asserted that Neftaly told her in private that he wanted her to remain the primary beneficiary of the policy. After Neftaly’s death, Bertha filed a claim for the insurance benefits, and Imara Guerrero (defendant), as personal representative of Neftaly’s estate, opposed the claim. Imara argued that the proceeds should be paid to the estate because, pursuant to New Mexico law, the divorce had revoked Neftaly’s designation of Bertha as beneficiary and he had not named a new beneficiary.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Herrera, J.)

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