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Health and Disability & Life Insurance Committee Newsletter - Fall 2019

Retroactive Revocation-On-Divorce Statutes Here To StayLast year, in Sveen v. Melin, 138 S. Ct. 1815, 201 L. Ed. 2d 180 (2018), the Supreme Court held that the Contracts Clause of the United States Constitution permits the retroactive application of a Minnesota revocation-on-divorce statute to life insurance policies. The case marked the first time the Court had determined a Contracts Clause issue in 25 years, and cemented the modern understanding that, despite the Clause, states can interfere with some aspects of a contract between private parties.1 Eight Justices signed on to Justice Elena Kagan’s majority opinion supporting revocationon-divorce statutes—which change the beneficiary on life insurance policies—on the grounds that such statutes generally represent a divorced decedent’s intent and do not substantially impair the life insurance contract. Only Justice Gorsuch, invoking a narrow reading of the Contracts Clause, dissented.

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