Elter-Nodvin v. NodvinAnnotate this Case
Petitioner Edeltraud Elter-Nodvin appealed a superior court order that dismissed her claims against Respondents (her daughters) Leah and Madeline Nodvin. The claims sought to impose a constructive trust on insurance and retirement account proceeds that would otherwise pass to her daughters. Petitioner was married to Stephen Nodvin in 1986, and had Respondents. In 2009, Stephen filed for divorce, the couple separated, and Petitioner moved abroad. In October of that year, the family division issued an anti-hypothecation order instructing the parties to refrain from, among other things, disposing of marital property while proceedings were pending. Sometime thereafter, Stephen changed the beneficiaries of certain life insurance policies and retirement accounts from Petitioner to the couple’s daughters. After changing the beneficiaries, Stephen died. In 2011, Petitioner sued her daughters for the insurance and retirement account proceeds. She argued that the circumstances under which her husband changed his beneficiaries justified the imposition of a constructive trust. The daughters, one of whom was still a minor and represented by guardians, moved to dismiss the petition. They argued that Stephen’s change of beneficiaries did not violate the anti-hypothecation order, and, therefore, their status as the named beneficiaries entitled them to the proceeds of their father’s insurance policies and retirement accounts. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that Stephen's action did not violate the plain language of the anti-hypothecation order. Further, the Court held that the superior court properly dismissed Petitioner's breach of contract and constructive trust claim because she failed to allege facts to establish a contract or a confidential relationship at the time Stephen changed beneficiaries: "while the divorce action was pending, Petitioner could not rely upon Stephen to provide for her based on a spousal obligation. Rather, if she wished to remain beneficiary of the insurance policies, she should have asked the court to order Stephen not to alter them."