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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Widow Can Fight Spouse’s Ex Over Benefits Payout

WASHINGTON (CN) - A fight over insurance benefits between a Virginia widow and her late husband's ex-wife will face resolution from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judy Maretta filed a claim for benefits under the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance, or FEGLI, policy of her ex-husband after his death in July 2008.

Though he had remarried Jaqueline Hillman six years earlier, Warren Hillman had never changed the beneficiary designation of Maretta in his FEGLI policy.

To recoup the $124,558.03 paid to Maretta, the newly widowed Hillman sued under Section 20-111.1(D) of Virginia law.

FEGLI expressly states that policy benefits go to a named beneficiary first and then to the employee's widow, and it contains a pre-emption provision sidelining state law.

Virginia law says that divorce judgments revoke beneficiary designations. The (D) subsection makes Maretta personally liable to Hillman for the benefit she received.

A Fairfax County judge entered judgment against Maretta, but the Virginia Supreme Court reversed last year after finding that Congress intended for Maretta to collect her ex-husband's benefits as the designated beneficiary.

The Supreme Court took up the case Friday, noting that the same issue has divided state and federal courts around the country.

As is its custom, the court made no comment in granting certiorari.

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