CAROL DIANE COOPER, and JOHN SCOTT COOPER, As Personal Representative of the Estate of Peter M. Cooper, Jr., Deceased, Plaintiffs, Appellees,
ALYSSA JANE D'AMORE, f/k/a/ Alyssa J. Cooper, Defendant, Appellee.
FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MASSACHUSETTS [Hon. Richard G. Stearns, U.S. District Judge]
J. O'Regan, with whom Burns & Levinson LLP was on
brief, for appellant.
P. Carroll, with whom Andrew Nathanson and Mintz, Levin,
Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. were on brief, for
Kayatta, Stahl, and Barron, Circuit Judges.
2003, Peter M. Cooper, Jr. ("decedent") established
an Individual Retirement Account ("IRA") with
Mesirow Financial ("Mesirow IRA"), and designated
his then wife, Alyssa Jane D'Amore
("D'Amore"), as beneficiary. In 2006, the
couple divorced, but decedent never revoked the beneficiary
designation. In 2011, decedent transferred the majority of
his Mesirow IRA assets to a TD Ameritrade IRA. In 2012, upon
decedent's death, Mesirow distributed the assets
remaining in the Mesirow IRA to D'Amore. Carol Diane
Cooper, the mother and primary beneficiary of decedent, and
John S. Cooper, the executor of decedent's estate,
(collectively "the Coopers") sued D'Amore,
claiming that the Mesirow assets should have been distributed
to decedent's estate. The district court ultimately
granted summary judgment for the Coopers.
careful consideration, we conclude that the district court
improperly granted summary judgment for the Coopers because
decedent's transfer did not terminate the Mesirow IRA.
2003, decedent, an investment executive/bond trader at
Mesirow Financial Inc., established a Mesirow IRA through his
employer. The Mesirow Custodial Agreement governed the
At the time, decedent was married to D'Amore and
designated her as the beneficiary. Decedent managed multiple
financial investments for himself as well as other family
members. In 2006, decedent and D'Amore divorced and
entered into a Martial Settlement Agreement which provided,
in part, that "[e]ach party shall continue to own as his
or her own separate property any Individual Retirement
Account (IRA), pension or retirement plan in his or her name,
and each does hereby waive any claim to such account of the
other." Notwithstanding the Martial Settlement
Agreement, decedent did not revoke the beneficiary
designation for the Mesirow IRA.
August 18, 2011, decedent completed a TD Ameritrade
"Account Transfer Form" in order to transfer his
assets from the Mesirow IRA to a TD Ameritrade IRA. One
provision in the form stated: "This is a total transfer
from a brokerage account." Decedent checked the box next
to this provision. Another provision in the form, entitled
"Transfer Agreement, " provided: "Unless
otherwise indicated, I authorize the Transferor to liquidate
any nontransferable proprietary money market fund assets and
mutual fund assets that are part of my account and to
transfer the resulting credit balance to my account with TD
Ameritrade." Decedent did not initial this portion of
September 7, 2011, decedent received a letter from Mesirow
Financial, entitled "Non-Deliverable Assets(s)."
The letter provided that certain assets in decedent's
account were "not transferable." The letter also
provided that if a "request is not received within 60
days your account will be reestablished." On September
24, 2011, decedent sent an email to a financial advisor at
Mesirow Financial, asking if he could keep the
nontransferable assets in the account.
continued to receive financial statements for the Mesirow IRA
until he died. Decedent's Mesirow statements
post-transfer included the same account number listed on his
statements pre-transfer. Unlike the earlier statements which
listed D'Amore as the primary beneficiary, the statements
post-transfer indicated that the primary beneficiary
designation was "not provided."
21, 2012, decedent died. Thereafter, Mesirow distributed the
assets that remained in the Mesirow IRA to D'Amore
pursuant to the beneficiary designation.
October of 2014, the Coopers sued D'Amore, seeking to
recover the assets distributed by Mesirow to D'Amore. The
parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. On November
10, 2015, the district court granted summary judgment for the
Coopers, finding that upon divorce, D'Amore's
beneficiary designation was revoked pursuant to the Illinois
Trusts and Dissolutions of Marriage Act. Cooper v.
D'Amore, No. CV 14-14041-RGS, 2015 WL 6962834, at *4
(D. Mass. Nov. 10, 2015). On November 20, 2015, D'Amore
filed a motion for reconsideration. Thereafter, the court
determined that its summary judgment decision was improper
because Delaware law, not Illinois law, governed the IRA. On
December 4, 2015, the court ...