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EQUITABLE LIFE ASSURANCE SOCIETY UNITED STATES v. MICHAEL W. STITZEL (05/07/82)

filed: May 7, 1982.

THE EQUITABLE LIFE ASSURANCE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES
v.
MICHAEL W. STITZEL, LOUIS F. DIXON, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF VALERIE L. STITZEL, DECEASED, LOUIS F. DIXON AND ELAINE DIXON. APPEAL OF LOUIS F. DIXON, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF VALERIE L. STITZEL, DECEASED, LOUIS F. DIXON AND ELAINE DIXON



NO. 1836 Philadelphia, 1981, ON APPEAL FROM THE ORDERS OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS OF CUMBERLAND COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, DATED JUNE 16, 1981 CIVIL ACTION, NO. 50 EQUITY, 1980.

COUNSEL

James D. Flower, Carlisle, for appellant.

John Michael Eakin, Assistant District Attorney, Mechanicsburg, for appellee.

Wieand, Cirillo and Popovich, JJ.

Author: Cirillo

[ 299 Pa. Super. Page 201]

This is an appeal from an Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Cumberland County whereby the appellee, Michael W. Stitzel, was found to be the beneficiary of a group insurance policy and was awarded the proceeds from the policy.

The Equitable Life Assurance Society insured the life of Valerie L. Stitzel, deceased, under a group insurance policy issued to employees of PPG Industries, Inc. On June 1, 1977, the deceased designated the appellee, her husband, as the revocable beneficiary of the life insurance policy. The deceased also named the appellee the beneficiary for her employee savings plan and for a plan authorizing deductions from her pay for the purchase of U. S. Savings Bonds. In the fall of 1978, the deceased and her husband began experiencing marital difficulties. In October 1978, the deceased changed the designated beneficiary of her payroll savings bond plan from the appellee to her father, Louis F. Dixon. Subsequently, the deceased and the appellee executed a property settlement agreement which provided in part that each party would relinquish his or her inchoate intestate right in the estate of the other, and that each relinquished "any and all claims, . . . actions, causes of action . . . of whatsoever kind or nature, for or because of any matter or thing done, omitted, or suffered to be done by said other party prior to and including the date hereof . . ." On May 5,

[ 299 Pa. Super. Page 2021980]

, the deceased and her husband were granted a divorce. However, the designated beneficiary on the insurance policy remained unchanged, even after the divorce decree.

On May 16, 1980 Valerie L. Stitzel died of accidental causes and Equitable became liable on the insurance policy in the amount of $22,800.00. The appellee filed a claim for the proceeds as the named beneficiary on the policy. The appellant, Louis F. Dixon, filed a claim for the proceeds, contending that the property settlement agreement between the deceased and the appellee revoked the beneficiary designation.*fn1

Equitable instituted an action for interpleader against the parties to determine who should receive the proceeds. Equitable then paid the proceeds into court and was excused as a party to the action.

On March 24, 1981, upon stipulation of the facts by the parties and after argument, the Honorable Harold E. Sheely decreed that Michael W. Stitzel was entitled to the insurance proceeds in question and entered a Decree Nisi. The appellants filed Exceptions and, after argument, the Exceptions were dismissed and the final Decree was entered in favor of the appellee. This appeal now follows.

The appellants raise two issues on appeal. First, the appellants contend that the property settlement agreement which purported to constitute a complete division of all property rights, revoked ...


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