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06/30/89 Ruthie Williams, Adm'r of v. Marguerite Gatling

June 30, 1989

RUTHIE WILLIAMS, ADM'R OF THE ESTATE OF ANDREW WARE, PETITIONER-APPELLANT

v.

MARGUERITE GATLING, RESPONDENT-APPELLEE



APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, FIFTH DIVISION

542 N.E.2d 121, 186 Ill. App. 3d 21, 134 Ill. Dec. 121 1989.IL.1046

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Frank J. Petrone, Judge, presiding.

APPELLATE Judges:

JUSTICE LORENZ delivered the opinion of the court. MURRAY, P.J., and PINCHAM, J., concur.

DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE LORENZ

Ruthie Williams, the administrator of the estate of Andrew Ware, appeals from a judgment awarding proceeds from the deceased's life insurance policy and employee stock ownership plan to Marguerite Gatling, the deceased's former wife. The issue presented is whether a waiver of claim to property not specifically disposed of by a divorce decree precludes payment to the former wife, as named beneficiary, of proceeds of a life insurance policy and employee stock ownership plan of the former husband.

We conclude it does not and affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

Andrew Ware and Marguerite Gatling were married on August 10, 1974. Ware named Gatling as beneficiary of his Metropolitan Life insurance policy and General Motors Corporation Employees Stock Ownership Plan account. On September 27, 1982, Ware and Gatling were divorced. The property settlement portion of the divorce decree did not contain specific provision of the insurance policy or ESOP account. After Ware's death on November 20, 1986, the proceeds of the policy and ESOP account were paid to Gatling as named beneficiary.

Subsequently, Ruthie Williams, as administrator of Ware's estate, successfully sought to recover the proceeds. However, on February 3, 1988, the circuit court vacated its prior order and returned the proceeds to Gatling.

This appeal followed.

As the administrator acknowledges on appeal, the appellate court in Cox v. Employers Life Insurance Co. (1975), 25 Ill. App. 3d 12, 322 N.E.2d 555, and O'Toole v. Central Laborers' Pension & Welfare Funds (1973), 12 Ill. App. 3d 995, 299 N.E.2d 392, has determined that, unless specifically provided for in divorce decrees, a former wife, as named beneficiary, is not precluded her interest in her former husband's insurance policy proceeds upon his death. The administrator also concedes the decree before us is silent as to Ware's policy and ESOP account proceeds and that, if we follow the above authority, Gatling is entitled to the amounts as named beneficiary. However, the administrator contends Gatling waived claim to that interest under paragraph 2(k) of the decree. The administrator argues that that paragraph evidences an intention to extend Gatling's waiver of claim to property not specifically disposed of in the decree to the proceeds of the policy and ESOP account.

Paragraph 2(k) of the judgment provides in pertinent part:

"ach of the parties does hereby forever relinquish, release, waive and forever quitclaim and grant to the other . . . all rights of maintenance, dower, inheritance, descent, distribution, community interest and all other right, title, claim, interest and estate as Husband and Wife, widow or widower, or otherwise, by reason of the marital relations existing between said parties hereto . . . or which he or she otherwise has or might have or be entitled to claim in, to or against the property and assets of the other, real personal or mixed, or his or her estate whether now owned or hereafter in any manner acquired by the other party, or whether in possession or in expectancy, and whether vested or contingent."

The administrator also argues we should decline to follow Cox and O'Toole and should rule, instead, that divorce automatically revokes the designation of beneficiary similar to the operation of section 4-7(b) of the Probate Act of 1975 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110 1/2, par. 4-7(b)) regarding a ...


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