United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
JON STUART SCOLES, Chief Magistrate Judge.
On the 20th day of August 2014, this matter came on for an evidentiary hearing to determine the appropriate disposition of proceeds from a group term life insurance policy insuring the life of James A. Caradine. Defendants Andrea Caradine, Marina Caradine, JaLeesa Caradine, and JaMeesha Hawthorne appeared personally, and were unrepresented by counsel. The remaining Defendants did not appear, nor anyone for them.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On September 20, 2013, Minnesota Life Insurance Company ("Minnesota Life") filed a Complaint for Interpleader. According to the Complaint, Minnesota Life issued a group term life insurance policy to Deere & Company, which insured the life of James A. Caradine. Minnesota Life asked that it be permitted to deposit with the Court the remaining life insurance proceeds, with the Court then determining the appropriate disposition of the proceeds among the various claimants.
On June 27, 2014, Judge Edward J. McManus filed an Order directing Minnesota Life to pay over to the Clerk of Court the net proceeds of the life insurance policy. Judge McManus also referred the matter to me for a report and recommendation on the question of whether the most recent Beneficiary Designation is valid.
II. RELEVANT FACTS
A. James Caradine Family
James Caradine was not married at the time of his death. He was previously married to Andrea Caradine for approximately 31 years, but they were divorced in 1998. Andrea Caradine, age 71, testified that she and James had two children, Marina Caradine and Brian Caradine. Brian Caradine resides in California. Marina Caradine, age 45, testified that she has three children, JaLeesa Caradine, JaMeesha Hawthorne, and LaDarius Caradine. JaLeesa, age 26, and JaMeesha, age 22, also appeared at the hearing. LaDarius is incarcerated at the Anamosa State Penitentiary.
James Caradine was also married at one point to Naomi Sisk. Andrea Caradine testified that James and Naomi were married for only a short period of time in approximately 2000. No children were born to that marriage. Naomi Sisk lives in Waterloo.
Defendant Paula Brown, formerly known as Paula Watts, is apparently James' daughter from an earlier relationship. Paula has two children, Jasalynn ("Jas") and James ("JW"). Paula Brown and her two children reside in California.
The other named Defendant is Darrell Reasby. Darrell Reasby is Andrea Caradine's son by a previous marriage. That is, Darrell Reasby is not biologically related to James Caradine; although according to Andrea, James raised Darrell as his own son. Darrell Reasby resides in California.
B. James Caradine's Last Illness
James A. Caradine died on June 27, 2013, at the age of 74. According to the death certificate, Caradine suffered from lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and chronic heart failure. His immediate cause of death was described as "respiratory failure."
According to the medical records which were introduced as exhibits at the time of hearing, Caradine was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002. He was seen regularly in 2012 and, given the nature of his illness, was "doing remarkably well." He was hospitalized for short periods of time in 2012, but generally recovered quickly. It was decided that he would follow a course of chemotherapy. While ...