The ex-husband of Meredith Sullivan, a former University of Delaware official who was killed in a murder-suicide in Pennsylvania, must give up the proceeds he received from his individual life insurance policies, has a Delaware judge ruled Thursday.
But Vice Chancellor Sam Glasscock III also ruled that Sullivan’s ex-husband, former Newark City Councilor Luke Chapman, had the right to keep the proceeds from his University group life insurance policy. of Delaware.
The rulings confirm the findings of a report released in February by an officer of the Chancellery Court. This report was made exactly three years to the day when Chapman filed for divorce from Sullivan.
The insurance policy dispute involved conflicting state laws and occurred in a first impression case, meaning it was a new issue that had never been dealt with before by a court. of Delaware.
Sullivan was killed at her Pennsylvania residence in April 2018, two weeks after Delaware Family Court issued the divorce decree. The wife of a man Sullivan was having an affair with broke into her home, waited for her to arrive, then shot Sullivan down before committing suicide. Sullivan, 33, was killed just days after taking a post as assistant vice president at Villanova University. She had previously been Senior Director of Marketing at the University of Delaware, where she was known as Meredith Chapman.
After Sullivan’s death, Chapman received the proceeds of two individual life insurance policies, of which he was the sole beneficiary. He also received insurance products as the primary beneficiary of Sullivan’s group life insurance policy.
Sullivan’s mother and siblings argued that Chapman was not entitled to the insurance proceeds, even though the policies were issued in Delaware, as she moved to Pennsylvania shortly before her death.
Under the Pennsylvania “Revocation on Divorce” Act, a life insurance policyholder’s ex-spouse is deemed to be “predeceased” by the policyholder for the purposes of beneficiaries and is not entitled to any product. The law is based on the presumption that an insured who designates a spouse as beneficiary, then divorces and dies without having changed the designation of beneficiary, with the intention nevertheless to revoke the ex-spouse as beneficiary.
Delaware law also contains a “revocation on divorce” provision, but unlike Pennsylvania law, which applies to both wills and insurance policies, Delaware law does not apply. ‘applies only to wills.
Chapman argued in a court motion that because the divorce decree was issued in Delaware and because the insurance policies were issued in Delaware, Delaware law governed the disposition of the insurance proceeds. and he was the appropriate beneficiary.
Glassock agreed with the Patricia Griffin Masters of Chancellery’s conclusion that because Sullivan was living in Pennsylvania at the time of his death, Pennsylvania has a greater political interest in ensuring that its public policy on automatic dismissal. beneficiary designations is implemented.
“Pennsylvania is surely more interested in justifying the intentions of its residents than Delaware is in non-residents,” Glasscock wrote.
Regarding the group insurance policy, however, Glassock noted that the contracting parties were not Sullivan and his insurer, as was the case with individual policies, but were the university – “clearly a Delaware resident â- and its insurer. Chapman, as the primary beneficiary, is therefore entitled under Delaware law to the proceeds of the group life insurance policy, the judge ruled.