A.R.S. 14-2804 Interpretation

In In re Estate of Dobert, 192 Ariz. 248, 252, P 17, 963 P.2d 327, 331 (App. 1998), the Court recognized A.R.S. 14-2804 does not "foreclose any choice by the insured to designate the former spouse as the beneficiary after" dissolution of marriage. 192 Ariz. at 254, P 25, 963 P.2d at 333. Requiring written redesignation to reverse the effect of A.R.S. 14-2804 does not raise "unconstitutional impairment of contract and takings issues," as Pamela asserts. The Court addressed these arguments in Dobert. There, during marriage, the husband obtained a life insurance policy that named the wife as beneficiary. 192 Ariz. at 250, P 2, 963 P.2d at 329. The parties divorced and the dissolution decree awarded the policy to the husband. Id. Section 14-2804 became effective before the entry of the dissolution decree. Id. After the decree, the husband died, and the wife claimed the policy proceeds. Id. at P3. On appeal, the wife asserted retroactive application of the statute would unconstitutionally impair her rights under the insurance policy. Id. at 251, P 9, 963 P.2d at 330. The Court initially held the ex-wife was not a party to the insurance contract and had no vested right to remain the beneficiary under the policy and, consequently, had no "contractual relationship" upon which to base her constitutional claim. Id. at 253, P 20, 963 P.2d at 332. The Court further held that even if a contractual relationship existed between the insurer and the ex-wife, the statute did not effect a "substantial impairment" to that relationship: Because, in this case, in the dissolution decree, upon the agreement of the parties, the trial court awarded the insurance policy to Dobert, the ex-wife lacks any reasonable basis for expecting that her beneficiary status would continue. Thus, her interest in remaining the designated beneficiary was not substantially impaired by the revocation provision of A.R.S. Section 14-2804(A) such as would offend the Arizona or United States Constitutions. Id. at P21.