The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Sveen v. Melin has proven groundbreaking for many reasons. In our last article, we offered background information on this landmark case. Next, we’ll take an in-depth look at how Sveen v. Melin might impact divorcees in Minnesota and across the nation.

The Supreme Court’s Ruling

In a rare 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sveen’s children. New Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch was the lone dissenter. In breaking with the majority, he hoped to draw attention to the application of the Constitution’s Contracts Clause. However, Justice Elena Kagan explained, “the law is unlikely to disturb any policyholder’s expectations because it does no more than a divorce court could always have done.”

How the Supreme Court’s Decision Will Impact Future Divorces in Minnesota

Minnesota is one of over two dozen states that maintains revocation on divorce — a practice involving the removal of beneficiary rights after a couple ends their marriage. As in many states, this approach is based on a notable Uniform Probate Code amendment, which refers to the failure to swap beneficiaries as ‘inattention’ and not ‘intention.’ The Supreme Court’s decision allows Minnesota and other states to continue revoking beneficiary rights.

As a divorcee, the main takeaway from this case is that you are not automatically entitled to beneficiary rights simply because your ex failed to designate somebody else. That’s not to say your ex is barred from designating you as beneficiary; he or she would simply need to refile the appropriate paperwork.

As a Minnesotan considering divorce, you’re rightfully worried about the role Sveen v. Melin and current state statutes will play in your financial future. The Brown Law Offices can provide the insight and guidance you need. Reach out today to learn more.

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 Brown Law Offices to determine the best approach to your divorce.