Supreme Court ruled on the insurance dispute between ex-wife and widow

11/17/2020 – In the case of a divorce, it was agreed in a split comparison that the woman should not be entitled to a benefit from a life insurance. According to the will, the new wife should be entitled to benefits, but the insurance company was not informed of the change. When the husband died, the ex-wife and widow demanded payment. The Supreme Court decided: The revocation of the subscription entitlement was effectively agreed, information of the insurer is not necessary.

The policyholder was married several times. At the time of his death, he was divorced from the woman who was listed as the beneficiary in his endowment insurance. After the divorce, the insurance contract became his sole property by mutual agreement.

Her share of the assets was paid out, so she lost her claim to insurance benefits. However, the insurer was never informed of the divorce or the comparison of the split. He did not find out that their entitlement to purchase has expired.

After his death, she turned to the insurer and asked for the sum insured to be paid out. Before his death, however, the policyholder married again and in his will he bequeathed his fortune to his new wife. This demanded the sum for itself.

The insurer then refused to pay out the sum and had it deposited. Thereupon the original beneficiary sued against the deposit and claimed the insurance benefit. The widow took part in the trial as a secondary intervener.

Eligibility changed legally?

As a secondary intervener, she maintained the legality of the deposit. All insurances should have been transferred to her deceased husband, the plaintiff had actually undertaken to provide the necessary signatures.

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However, it was agreed in the insurance conditions that although the policyholder can revoke the designation of beneficiaries at any time, the revocation will only become legally effective upon receipt of an express written declaration of revocation from the policyholder.

In the first instance, the request was rejected. A change in the subscription entitlement through the distribution equalization is basically possible. Failure to notify the insurer could not benefit the plaintiff. The deposit is justified.

The appellate court did not uphold the plaintiff’s appeal. A change in entitlement to purchase is a unilateral declaration of intent, which is also sufficient in a last will. Because of the designation in the will, the intervener is entitled to draw.

No secured legal position of the beneficiary

The appeal of the plaintiff at highest court was subsequently approved. He actually criticized the deposit. According to Austrian law, it must take place at the place of residence of the obligee, but it took place at the German representative of the defendant in Heidelberg.

However, nothing could be gained from this for the plaintiff. In case of doubt, a policyholder is generally authorized to designate a third party as the beneficiary or to replace him with another third party.

The beneficiary does not yet have a secure legal position, but only prospects of employment. The claim arises only when the insured event occurs. Until then, the policyholder’s position can be changed or revoked without replacement.

Understanding should protect insurers

There is no legal regulation on the form and modalities of this change, but it needs to be received in order to actually be implemented. In the present case, however, it is not a unilateral declaration of intent, but a contractual agreement.

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A contract is not only suitable for carrying out a change in subscription entitlement, but also in any case reliable as evidence. With the completion of the distribution comparison, the revocation of subscription rights had been effectively agreed.

A notification of the insurer is not necessary for the material effectiveness. The communication of the content of the settlement only protects the insurer from multiple claims. The appeal was rejected.

The decision in full text

The Supreme Court decision 7Ob52 / 20b dated September 16, 2020 is available in full in the federal legal information system.


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