Other Estate Planning Matters

Life Insurance


Trust Intent

Hubbard v. Shankle, 138 S.W.3d 474 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2004, pet. denied).


Insured removed his ex-wife as the beneficiary of his life insurance policy replacing her with Beneficiary, a woman whom he had been dating for about three months after meeting her on the Internet. Insured told Beneficiary that he wanted her to have the money and that he wanted her take care of his toddler’s college expenses in the future. Insured died during sexual activities with Beneficiary. The insurance company paid the proceeds of the life insurance policy to Beneficiary. Administratrix of Insured’s estate sued Beneficiary to recover the proceeds. The trial court determined that Insured voluntarily named Beneficiary as the recipient of his life insurance proceeds and that Beneficiary had no legal obligation to use any of the proceeds for the toddler’s future college expenses. Administratrix appealed.

The appellate court affirmed. The court examined the facts and determined that there was no evidence to support any of Administratrix’s claims which included breach of contract, promissory estoppel, actual fraud, constructive fraud, express trust, resulting trust, constructive trust, money had and received, unjust enrichment, and quasi-contract.

With regard to Administratrix’s argument that Insured created an express trust for the toddler, the court noted that Insured’s conduct was inconsistent with having trust intent. For example, Insured did not clearly place the proceeds in trust. When he changed the beneficiary designation on the policy, he did not include any type of trust designation. Rather, Beneficiary was named individually.

Although not actually stated so by the court, all that really existed was a daughter, (Administratrix), who was very upset because her father (Insured) removed his ex-wife (Administratrix’s mother) as the beneficiary a policy with a face value of over $100,000 naming a woman as the beneficiary with whom he had a very short-term relationship and whom “triggered” his death via sexual activity.

Moral: Even a clear, unambiguous designation of a person as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy may be contested if the relationship between the beneficiary and the insured is upsetting to the insured’s family members.