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Competing claims for death benefits lead to court

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A life insurance company wants a court to help sort out who is entitled to $516,000 in death benefits on two policies whose beneficiaries have changed several times.

Securian Life Insurance Co. of St. Paul, Minnesota, sued Sean Brady, the ex-husband of the late Sharon Fishman and the father of their two children, and Ralph A. Mendocino, her boyfriend, last month in U.S. District Court in White Plains.

“Because there are competing claims,” the insurance company stated, “Securian does not know to whom to pay the death benefits.”

Fishman, an executive assistant at PepsiCo, signed up for a life insurance policy offered by the company in 2010. She designated her son and daughter, then about 7 and 4, as the beneficiaries.

She filed for divorce in 2013. After reaching a settlement with her husband, she designated her sister, Lauren Azuolay of Larchmont, as sole beneficiary.

Later that year, she renamed her children as the beneficiaries.

Last year, according to Securian, she changed the beneficiary to her boyfriend, Ralph Mendocino of Port Chester.

Fishman, of Yorktown Heights, died on Feb. 4 at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx at age 50.

Securian received competing claims for the death benefits.

Azuolay advised Securian in a letter “NOT to pay out on this life insurance policy to the named beneficiary.”

She said her sister’s divorce settlement required her to maintain the policy for the benefit of her husband on behalf of their children.

Then an attorney representing Sean Brady claimed the benefits for him, citing the divorce settlement.

That was followed by a second letter from Brady’s attorney, including a notarized affidavit purportedly executed by Mendocino, claiming that Mendocino had relinquished his claim.

Then an attorney representing Mendocino challenged Brady’s attorney and asserted Mendocino’s rights.

At this point, Securian stated, Brady and Mendocino claim they are entitled to the $516,000. But the children, through their father as guardian, also may be entitled to the money.

Securian is “ready, willing and able to pay,” the insurer stated, but it is “unable to determine which of the adverse claimants is entitled to the death benefits.”

Securian is asking the court to order the claimants to settle the dispute among themselves, restrain them from suing Securian and discharge Securian from liability over the policy.

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