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Hertzske v. Snyder

Supreme Court of Utah

January 18, 2017

Tyler Hertzske, Appellee,
v.
Linda Snyder, Appellant.

         On Direct Appeal

         Third District, Salt Lake Dep't The Honorable Su Chon No. 140905282.

          Michael E. Day, Nathan Whittaker, Salt Lake City, for appellee

          Brian S. King, Salt Lake City, for appellant

          Justice Durham authored the opinion of the court, in which Chief Justice Durrant, Associate Chief Justice Lee, Justice Himonas, and Justice Pearce joined.

          OPINION

          Durham, Justice

         INTRODUCTION

         ¶1 Linda Snyder and Tyler Hertzske each claim sole entitlement to the death benefits of a life insurance policy (Policy) held by decedent Edward Hertzske. There are two issues presented in this case: (1) how Utah Code section 30-3-5(1)(e) should be interpreted in correlation with Utah Code section 75-2-804; and (2) the proper interpretation of "express terms" in section 75-2-804(2). The district court granted summary judgment to T. Hertzske, finding that there was "no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that T. Hertzske was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In support of the district court's conclusion, the judge held that where section 30-3-5(1)(e) was not considered or included in the divorce proceedings, it did not apply, and the Policy did not contain "express terms" that would except it from revocation under section 75-2-804(2). We affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 In August 2004, while Linda Snyder and Edward Hertzske were engaged, E. Hertzske obtained a $500, 000 life insurance policy from Lincoln Benefit Life Co. (Lincoln). The Policy named Ms. Snyder as the primary beneficiary and T. Hertzske as the secondary beneficiary. The terms of the Policy provided a method for naming new beneficiaries during E. Hertzske's lifetime, but were silent as to whether the designation of a spouse as a beneficiary would survive a divorce. The Policy instructions regarding beneficiaries states, in relevant part,

The beneficiary will receive the death benefit when the insured dies and we have received due proof of death. The beneficiary is as stated in the app[lication], unless changed.
. . . .
We will pay the death benefit to the beneficiaries according to the most recent written instructions we have received from you.
. . . .
You may name new beneficiaries. We will provide a form to be signed. You must file it with us. Upon receipt, it is effective as of the date you signed the form, subject to any ...

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