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Court Rules in Favor of Meredith Chapman’s Ex-Husband’s Life Insurance Claim

A Chancery Court ruled Luke Chapman, the ex-husband of Meredith Chapman who was killed in a murder-suicide is entitled to the proceeds from his ex-wife’s life insurance policy. A Delaware Court had previously determined that Chapman should relinquish the proceeds.’

The second ruling came as a result of conflicting state laws. The Delaware court was also addressing a novel issue that had not previously been reviewed.

The dispute began in April 2018 after Meredith Chapman (addressed as Meredith Sullivan in court proceedings) was killed at her home in Pennsylvania. Her murder occurred two weeks after Delaware Family Court had granted her a divorce.

According to law enforcement, the man with whom Meredith was having an affair broke into her home and shot her before killing himself.

Following her death, Luke Chapman was awarded the proceeds of his ex-wife’s University of Delaware life insurance policy. He also received proceeds from an additional policy. He was the sole beneficiary of both policies.

Mother and Sister Filed Motion Against Ex-Husband

Luke’s receipt of the funds was called into question by Meredith’s mother and sister. They claimed that as her ex-husband, he should no longer be entitled to the money because Meredith had relocated to Pennsylvania. Under Pennsylvania law, spousal beneficiary rights are automatically revoked upon divorce. This is not the case in Delaware.

In a court petition, Luke argued that because the divorce was issued in Delaware, that state’s law would govern the disposition of the funds.

Ultimately, Master in Chancery Patricia Griffin determined that since Meredith lived in Pennsylvania at the time of her death, the state has a stronger interest in ensuring the terms of its policy regarding automatic revocation were honored. Additionally, Griffin determined that Chapman must pay restitution to Meredith’s estate.

Alternately, Griffin determined that Luke is entitled to the other insurance policy, which was issued to her employer who is based in Delaware.

Finally, the court granted Luke’s motion to dismiss the counterclaim filed by Meredith’s mother arguing that a trust be created to deal with the proceeds from the life insurance policies. Her mother had also argued that because Luke was his wife’s insurance agent and financial advisor, he was responsible for changing the beneficiary designations once the divorce was filed.

According to Griffin, Meredith’s mother did not provide a factual basis to show that Luke did anything wrong. She also did not prove that it was his duty to inform his wife about the need to change beneficiaries, nor did she show that Meredith intended to make the change but hadn’t gotten around to doing so.

Determining beneficiary issues, especially amidst other complicated legal matters, is challenging. Heavens Law can help. Contact us at 888.897.5377.