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In re Soper’s Estate

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Ira secretly left his wife Adeline (plaintiff). Wife thought that Ira had committed suicide. Ira later renamed himself John W. Young and purchased a successful business and married Gertrude (defendant). Ira, as John W. Young, purchased a life insurance policy providing all proceeds to “the surviving wife” upon his death. After his death proceeds were given to Gertrude.  Adeline sued in state court to recover the insurance money. The trial court held for Gertrude and Adeline appealed.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    In Minnesota, the court will interpret the development of an agreement practically to guarantee that the words utilized are given their intended effect.

    Facts.

    Following ten years of marriage, Ira Collins Soper secretly left his better half Adeline Johnson Westphal (plaintiff) in Louisville, Kentucky and moved to Minnesota. At the time, he vanished, Ira's vehicle was found at the bank of an adjacent canal alongside portions of his garments and hat. Inside the vehicle were a few notes persuading that Ira had conferred suicide. While in Minnesota, Ira assumed the name John W. Youthful, bought an effective fuel business with an acquaintance, and married Gertrude Whitby (defendant). Soon Ira, as John W. Youthful, acquired a life coverage policy which gave that all proceeds were to go to "the surviving spouse" upon his demise. After his demise, numerous years after the fact continues from the life coverage policy were given to Gertrude as the surviving spouse. When Adeline found out, she documented suit in state court to recoup the insurance money. The trial court held for Gertrude and Adeline appealed.

    Issue.

    In Minnesota, will the court interpret the development of an agreement practically to guarantee the words utilized are given their intended effect?

    Held.

    Yes. In Minnesota, the court will interpret the development of an agreement practically to guarantee that the words utilized are given their intended effect.

    Dissent.

    A man can have just a single wife. Here, the life insurance contract assigns the "wife" as the intended recipient. Thus, Adeline is the best possible party to get the proceeds.

    Concurrence.

    N/A

    Discussion.

    On appeal, Adeline contends that Gertrude couldn't be the intended recipient of the insurance policy proceeds as the "surviving wife," since Ira could just have one wife and that was Adeline. While truly Ira most likely knew, he was married to Adeline at the time he married Gertrude and in this way given to Gertrude to be the recipient of the life insurance proceeds, it is evident that Ira did not intend for Adeline to take anything as the recipient. Gertrude was the chief individual accepted to be the spouse of John W. Youthful at the time the agreement was executed. All companions and associates of Young and Gertrude knew and perceived her as his significant other and there is nothing in the public records of Minnesota to demonstrate something else. In City of Marshall v. Gregoire, 259 N.W. 377, 381 (Minn.1935), the court noticed that the development of an agreement ought to be interpreted to give practical impact to the intention of the parties and to be bound by the strict words utilized as a part of the document. Here, it was unmistakably Young's expectation that Gertrude to is the recipient of the life insurance proceeds as his then-spouse. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.


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