Change is afoot in the Supreme Court, but as we’ve focused on new justices, many of us have ignored recent decisions that have a direct impact on our lives. One of the most notable? Sveen v. Melin, a case that began with a Minnesota state statute and ended with an influential ruling.
The Story Behind Sveen v. Melin
Sveen v. Melin revolved around a Minnesota statute that allows ex-spouses to be removed as post-divorce beneficiaries. It all began when Mark Sveen married Kaye Melin and purchased a life insurance policy — listing his then-wife as the primary beneficiary. When the couple divorced in 2007, the decree made no mention of the policy.
Sveen did not take steps to alter the beneficiary designation. When he died in 2011, his ex-wife remained the sole beneficiary. By that time, however, a Minnesota statute had declared that divorce automatically revoked beneficiary designation for ex-spouses.
The Role of Timing
Following Sveen’s death, his children claimed that, based on the aforementioned Minnesota statute, Melin should not be the sole beneficiary of the life insurance policy. Melin countered that Sveen purchased the policy in 1998 — well before Minnesota enacted the statute in question. She argued that it was unconstitutional to enforce a rule that didn’t apply at the time of purchase.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sveen’s children. In Part 2, we’ll examine the reasoning behind this decision, and how it might impact not only divorces, but state law in general.
Worried about how Sveen v. Melin (and divorce in general) will impact your life insurance policy? You don’t need to go it alone. Work with the law firm of Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd. to determine the best approach to your divorce.