On appeal from the Chancery Division of the Superior Court, Bergen County, to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court, certified by the Supreme Court on its own motion.
For affirmance -- Chief Justice Vanderbilt, and Justices Heher, Oliphant, Burling, Jacobs and Brennan. For reversal -- None. The opinion of the court was delivered by Vanderbilt, C.J.
This action was brought by the plaintiff life insurance company to require the three defendants to interplead and settle their conflicting claims to the moneys due from the plaintiff under five insurance policies on the life of Frederick H. Kretzschmar, now deceased. From the judgment of the Chancery Division of the Superior Court entered in favor of the defendant Edna Mae Kretzschmar, after cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings, the defendant Elizabeth K. Winkler appealed to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court and we certified the matter on our own motion while it was pending there.
The defendants are all related to the decedent in a variety of degrees. Elizabeth K. Winkler is his sister; Edna Mae Kretzschmar, who divorced him, was his second wife; Rose Kretzschmar was his third wife and is now his widow.
All the policies involved here were duly made payable to Edna Mae Kretzschmar, as named beneficiary, during the
period that she was the wife of the decedent. On four of the policies, totalling $11,500 in principal amount, the decedent changed the beneficiary from Edna Mae Kretzschmar to Elizabeth Winkler, his sister. On the remaining policy, in the amount of $10,000, he changed the beneficiary to Rose M. DeVuyst, who subsequently became his third wife. At the time of this change the decedent was still married to Edna Mae.
The chronology of events shows us that Frederick H. Kretzschmar and Edna Mae Kretzschmar were married in 1936 and three children were subsequently born of the union. In a suit for separate maintenance brought by Edna Mae against Frederick, a decree was entered in her favor which provided among other things that until otherwise ordered by the court Frederick was to pay the premiums and maintain the four policies of insurance on his life totalling $11,500, payable to Edna Mae and, in the event of her death, to the three children. Frederick retained possession of the policies, but the decree further ordered:
"That until the further order of the Court the defendant be, and he is hereby restrained and enjoined from changing any of the terms or conditions of said policies of insurance."
Among the other things provided in the decree, Frederick was ordered to transfer and convey to Edna Mae or her designee certain real property in the State of Florida and to transfer to her all of his interest in a certain bank account in that State and she in turn was ordered to execute and deliver a bond on which no interest was to be payable until September 1, 1957, secured by a mortgage on the premises in Florida. He was also ordered by that decree to conclude other property settlements, all of which we presume have been heretofore carried out. The decree dated October 6, 1947 bears the personal consent endorsements of both parties and of Frederick's counsel as follows:
"Having read the terms and conditions of the foregoing Decree and having received a full and complete explanation thereof we do
hereby consent to its signing and entry. Dated at Paterson, New Jersey, ...