Press Releases

ACTEC Offers Opinion in Sveen v. Melin

One of the central purposes of The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, ACTEC, is to study and improve trust, estate and tax laws, procedures and professional responsibility. ACTEC and its Fellows file amicus briefs in appropriate cases, testify before Congress, provide in-depth analysis of administrative positions to the Internal Revenue Service, assist in the development of best practices for trust and estate lawyers, and participate actively in the development of the recommendations being promulgated by the international Financial Action Task Force. An example of this occurred this week when the Supreme Court handed down its judgment in Sveen v. Melin.

The decision was 8-1 in favor of the position taken by ACTEC as amicus curiae with only Justice Gorsuch dissenting. ACTEC supported the position that revocation upon divorce statutes, applied retroactively to life insurance beneficiary designations, do not violate the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution. That is because rather than substantially impairing a Life Insurance Contract, these statutes in fact support the insured’s probable intent. Further, the statutes impose default rules for construing life insurance policies and the insured can defeat the default construction of a beneficiary designation with a simple stroke of a pen re-designating an ex-spouse as beneficiary.

The College’s Amicus Review Committee worked tirelessly on its brief under severe time restrictions. Kudos to that team’s effort! The Committee members are Meg LodiseBob Goldman, Carlyn McCaffrey, Rob Sitkoff and Bruce Stone. We also would be remiss if we did not thank Harvard Law student Eliyahu Balsam, who assisted with the Committee’s research needs. His work was vital to the Committee’s success.

Skip Fox, ACTEC President, offered his thoughts: “This is another example of the action of volunteer efforts by Fellows of the College having a positive impact for the Fellows and the profession.”