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First Nat. Bank & Trust Co. v. Purcell

December 14, 1951

FIRST NAT. BANK & TRUST CO. OF LEXINGTON ET AL.
v.
PURCELL ET AL.



Waddill

WADDILL, Commissioner. This is an action by the administrator of the estate of J. D. Purcell, seeking a declaration of rights and a construction of the will of the decedent. The parties to the suit include the devisees under the will, the beneficiaries under certain insurance policies and other interested parties.

The solution of the legal problems in this case depends primarily upon the interpretation of three documents executed on six insurance policies procured by Purcell in the name of some of his children and grandchildren.

In 1937, Purcell was issued six 20-year endowment policies by the Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada. Five were valued at $50,000 each and the sixth at $47,000. Four were issued on the lives of certain named grandchildren, one on the life of a daughter and one on the life of his daughter-in-law. Purcell was listed as the owner of all and the beneficiary of five, with a daughter, Mrs. Wiedeman, being the beneficiary of the one on her life.

In April, 1937, less than two months after the issuance of the policies, Purcell executed a series of three documents concerning the policies. The first, dated April 6, and entitled 'Request for Change' was executed on all policies except the one on Mary Purcell Wiedeman.

The pertinent part of the first document is as follows:

'I, Jefferson D. Purcell, the owner of policy No. ___, issued by you on the life of _____, do hereby request that this policy should be endorsed as follows:

'Should this policy become a claim either by the death of the assured or by its maturity as an endowment, the proceeds thereof shall be divided into three equal shares.'

At the end of the document the following appeared: 'All prior designations, if any, of payees or contingent payees and all prior selections of any alternative method of settlement are hereby revoked.'

The document set up a plan whereby the proceeds of the policies were to be distributed. In effect, a life estate was given to the three children of Purcell, with a succeeding life estate in six named grandchildren of Purcell, and a fee over to the issue of the six named grandchildren of Purcell with an alternative provision that upon the death of the survivor of the six named grandchildren, with no issue alive, the proceeds were to go to the estate of that last survivor.

On April 7, Purcell executed a 'Request for Revocation of Beneficiary Privilege.' In essence this document revoked his right as owner to change the beneficiary of any of the said policies, which right had been reserved to him in the original policies.

On April 8, he executed the third document, called 'Assignment,' and which reads as follows: 'In consideration of natural love and affection I hereby assign, transfer and set over all my right, title, interest and all legal incidents of my ownership in and to policy No. ___ * * * to my children * * *.'

The three documents were delivered to the local agent of the insurance company on the same day, April 8. They were received at the home office on April 20. 'The Request for Change' and the 'Request for Revocation of Beneficiary Privilege,' were endorsed on the policies; the three documents were then attached to the policies, all of which were returned to Purcell and held by him until his death.

The policies contained a provision that any written assignment of the proceeds of the policy should become effective when filed at the home office. They also contained a clause that any change of beneficiary would take effect only after endorsement of such change on the policy by the company, but 'when so endorsed it will relate back to and take effect as of the date of the execution of such request. * * *.'

On March 2, 1942, Purcell took out a seventh policy, valued at $38,000 on the life of his granddaughter, Mary Purcell Wiedeman, Jr., who was named as owner and beneficiary of this 15-year endowment. In January, 1942, Purcell allowed the policy on the life of his daughter-in-law to lapse. According to its terms it automatically became term insurance in the amount of $50,000 expiring August 22, ...


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