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03/25/94 BRANDIE KNAZZE v. BANKER'S LIFE AND

March 25, 1994

IN RE BRANDIE KNAZZE, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HER GUARDIAN AND NEXT FRIEND, KATHERINE KNAZZE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
BANKER'S LIFE AND CASUALTY COMPANY, SHIRLEY KNAZZE, AND DORIS KNAZZE, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. The Honorable Richard B. Berland, Judge Presiding.

Released for Publication May 5, 1994.

Egan, McNAMARA, Rakowski

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Egan

PRESIDING JUSTICE EGAN delivered the opinion of the court:

This case involves a dispute over $32,000 in insurance proceeds after the death of Mario Knazze. The dispute is between the plaintiff, Brandie Knazze, who is Mario's daughter, and the defendant, Shirley Knazze, who is Mario's mother. The plaintiff appeals from a judgment which gave the plaintiff $19,500 and the defendant $13,000.

The plaintiff is the sole surviving child of Mario and Katherine Knazze, Mario's first wife. Mario and Katherine were divorced in 1983. The judgment order for dissolution stated the following:

"Each party shall maintain life insurance policy through their present or future employer naming the minor child as irrevocable beneficiary; however, the respective insurance companies shall be advised that the first $3,500 of the policy shall be paid to the executor, administrator, or one in charge of burial, to be used only as and for the cost of burial."

At the time of the divorce and until his death, Mario was employed by the Cook County Department of Corrections and was covered under one group life insurance policy. At the time of the divorce, the group policy offered through his employer was issued by Banker's Life and Casualty Company (Banker's Life). The group term life insurance offered two plans: a group insurance benefit of $2,500 that was paid by the County and additional optional insurance paid by the employee up to a maximum of $17,000. At the time of the divorce, Mario was covered under both plans. Thus, his total life insurance benefit in effect at the time of the divorce was $19,500.

On September 11, 1989, Mario filled out another enrollment card for his group life insurance; he was still an employee of the Cook County Department of Corrections, and Banker's Life remained his insurer. He increased his additional optional employee paid insurance and requested insurance for $30,000. His life insurance benefit totalled, therefore, $32,500.

At the time the judgment of dissolution was entered, his mother Shirley was listed as the beneficiary. On August 5, 1988, he changed the beneficiary to Doris, his second wife. On the enrollment card dated September 11, 1989, he named Doris as the beneficiary. Seven days before his death on September 11, 1990, he named his mother Shirley as the beneficiary.

On October 5, 1990, the plaintiff, who was 14 years old at the time, by and through her mother Katherine, filed a complaint for imposition of constructive trusts. Both the plaintiff and the defendant moved for summary judgment. The defendant argued that the plaintiff was entitled to only $19,500 of the proceeds because that was the amount of life insurance in effect at the time of divorce. She also maintained that she was entitled to the increase in benefits because since the date of the divorce, she financially aided her son in cash gifts exceeding $24,500. In her affidavit, she alleged that those gifts were made to her son so that he could continue working, pay child support and make mortgage payments.

The plaintiff attached an affidavit from William Geremia, a senior adjuster at Banker's Life, who stated that the $2,500 benefit paid by the employer and any additional benefit ($30,000) "are benefits provided under the Policy, and do not constitute separate insurance policies."

After hearing oral argument, the trial Judge held that the plaintiff was entitled to $19,500 and the defendant was entitled to $13,000. The Judge held that the additional insurance Mario bought was insurance acquired after the divorce. He based his holding on the fact that the additional insurance was voluntarily purchased by Mario and that there were no additional voluntary contributions by the employer. We agree with the holding and the reasoning of the trial Judge.

In Brunnenmeyer v. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (1978), 66 Ill. App. 3d 315, 384 N.E.2d 446, 23 Ill. Dec. 652, the appellate court held that a property settlement agreement, in which the insured agreed to name the minor children as beneficiaries of his life policy, gave the minor children an enforceable equitable right superior ...


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