Even though defendant and the decedent were divorced before the enactment of S.C. Code Ann. § 62-2-507, since the decedent died after the statute’s enactment, the statute applies to revoke his designation of defendant as the beneficiary of his life insurance policy.
We reverse summary judgment for defendant.
Section 62-2-507(c)(1)(i) says a “divorce . . . revokes any revocable . . . beneficiary designation made by a divorced individual to the divorced individual’s former spouse in a governing instrument,” “[e]xcept as provided by the express terms of a governing instrument, a court order, or a contract relating to the division of the marital estate made between the divorced individuals before or after the marriage [or] divorce.” Section 62-2-507(a)(4) defines a governing instrument as “an instrument executed by the divorced individual before the divorce. . . [from] the individual’s former spouse including, but not limited to wills, revocable inter vivos trusts, powers of attorney, life insurance beneficiary designations, annuity beneficiary designations, retirement plan beneficiary designations and transfer on death accounts.”
South Carolina Act Number 100 of 2013 (the Act) indicated it took effect on January 1, 2014, and on that date, unless otherwise provided in the Act, “any rule of construction or presumption provided in this act applies to governing instruments executed before the effective date of the act unless there is a clear indication of a contrary intent in the terms of the governing instrument,” subject to certain provisions.
A state may pass retrospective laws absent direct constitutional prohibition. In the construction of statutes, there is a presumption that statutory enactments are to be considered prospective rather than retroactive in their operation unless there is a specific provision or clear legislative intent to the contrary. Remedial or procedural statutes are generally held to operate retrospectively. However, no statute will be applied retroactively unless that result is so clearly compelled as to leave no room for reasonable doubt.
This case is the first time a South Carolina appellate court has examined amended § 62-2-507. The federal district court for South Carolina has considered the statute twice and has reached different conclusions.
After a review of case law from other jurisdictions, we find the South Carolina version of the revocation-upon-divorce statute, § 62-2-507, applies and revokes the decedent’s designation of defendant as the beneficiary of his life insurance policy, despite the fact that their divorce occurred before the enactment of the 2013 amendment to the statute. Based on our reading of the South Carolina statute, which is supported by other states’ reading of their versions of the statute, because the decedent’s death occurred after the date the amendment took effect, the statute applies and revokes the designation. Further, defendant had no vested interest in the policy until such time as the decedent died. Accordingly, § 62-2-507 applies here to revoke the decedent’s designation of defendant as beneficiary of his life insurance policy.
Meier v. Burnsed (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-064-22, 24 pp.) (Aphrodite Konduros, J.) Appealed from Beaufort County Circuit Court (Marvin Dukes, Special Judge) Fred Kuhn for appellants; Peggy McMillan Infinger, Paul Infinger and James Richardson for respondent. S.C. App.