Ex-Spouse Remains Insurance Beneficiary Despite Law Change If Policy Issued Before Bill Took Effect


(Jan. 3, 2007) In a unanimous decision announced today, the Supreme Court of Ohio held that, regardless of the date on which a married couple was divorced, 1990 legislation that ‘automatically’ terminates all life insurance beneficiary designations in favor of a former spouse at the time of a divorce does not apply to insurance contracts that were in effect prior to the effective date of that legislation.

Section 1339.63 of the Ohio Revised Code, which took effect on May 31, 1990, provides that upon the termination of a marriage by divorce, dissolution, or annulment, all life insurance beneficiary designations in favor of a former spouse are automatically terminated unless the divorce decree specifically provides otherwise. In today’s decision, Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton affirmed lower court rulings that R.C. 1339.63 does not affect insurance contracts that were in effect prior to May 31, 1990, because retroactive application of the statute to pre-existing policies would violate the Contracts Clause of the Ohio Constitution.

In re Estate of Holycross
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