Banking & Finance, Human Resources, and Law

Court awards insurance windfall to ex-wife

March 21, 2016
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A woman can collect a $120,000 insurance windfall after the death of her former husband, despite their divorce years ago.

John "Jerry" Lett never removed Nancy Henson as the beneficiary before he died in 2014.

Lett and Henson divorced in 2009.

The Michigan appeals court said Lett had plenty of time to erase her name if that's what he wanted.

There is "no factual or legal basis to set aside the clear and unambiguous beneficiary designation that John left in place," the court said, reversing a decision by a Kent County judge in Grand Rapids. The 3-0 opinion was released Friday.

Lett's son Craig argued that Henson was listed as a beneficiary only in case his father had died before paying off a $28,500 debt from their marriage. The debt was settled in 2012, two years before his death at 59.

Kent County Judge David Murkowski held a one-day trial over the disputed insurance money and ruled in favor of John Lett's sons, saying their father and Henson didn't like each other, among other things.

But the appeals court said Murkowski went too far. The court said it's significant that Lett never listed other beneficiaries on the insurance policy.

Lett "was described as careful and aware of money matters and received annual reminders about his benefits from his Kent County employer," the court said.

He supervised the maintenance staff at the sheriff's department and was named civilian employee of the year in 2008.

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