United States v. Henning
344 U.S. 66 (1952)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Henning, 344 U.S. 66 (1952)

United States v. Henning

No. 10

Argued April 1, 1952

Reargued October 14, 1952

Decided November 17, 1952

344 U.S. 66

Syllabus

An insured under a policy of National Service Life Insurance who had designated his father as sole beneficiary, died in active service in July, 1945. Five months later, the father died, and four years later, the father's second wife (the insured's stepmother) died. Neither had received any part of the policy's proceeds. The insured's natural mother survived. The District Court found that the stepmother had stood in loco parentis to the insured for at least one year prior to his entry into active service, and also that, within the meaning of § 602(h)(3)(C) of the National Service Life Insurance Act, both the stepmother and the natural mother "last bore" the parental relationship to the insured.

Held:

1. Installments of the proceeds of the policy which, though accrued, had not been received by a beneficiary prior to his death, cannot be awarded to the estate of such deceased beneficiary, since § 602(i) conditions payments on the beneficiary's being alive to receive them. Pp. 344 U. S. 69-76.

2. The insured's natural mother is a surviving beneficiary entitled to take by devolution under § 602(h)(3)(C) of the Act. Pp. 344 U. S. 76-78.

(a) The finding that the stepmother "last bore" the parental relationship to the insured, within the meaning of § 602(h)(3)(C), does not preclude a finding that the insured's natural mother also "last bore" that relationship. Pp. 344 U. S. 76-77.

(b) This Court accepts what the courts below deemed a continuing parental relationship between the insured and his natural mother. Pp. 344 U. S. 77-78.

(c) Since the insured's natural mother is a surviving beneficiary entitled to take by devolution under § 602(h)(3)(C), she is the "beneficiary to whom payment is first made," within the meaning of § 602(h)(1) and (2). Pp. 344 U. S. 77-78.

3. Since there is a surviving beneficiary entitled to take by devolution under § 602(h)(3)(C), the Government may not invoke

Page 344 U. S. 67

the provisions of § 602(j) to withhold, for the benefit of the National Service Life Insurance Fund, payment of the installments accrued from the date of the insured's death. P. 344 U. S. 78.

191 F.2d 588 reversed.

In an action for a judicial determination of the proper beneficiary under a policy of National Service Life Insurance, the District Court divided the proceeds among three parties. 93 F.Supp. 380. The Court of Appeals agreed. 191 F.2d 588. This Court granted certiorari. 342 U.S. 917. Reversed, p. 344 U. S. 78.

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