The scenario is unfortunately rather common: A person has many discussions loved ones before his or her death, informing these individuals about the details of a will, estate planning documents, bank accounts, and other assets. Then, when that person passes away, loved ones find out that there have been changes at the last minute, such as the beneficiary designation on a life insurance policy. The alterations are contrary to the indications the decedent made during his or her lifetime, and are questionable because of the individual’s state of mind. If you find yourself in a similar situation, you do have options. You’ll need a skilled probate litigation attorney to assist you in contesting last minute beneficiary designation changes on life insurance policies, but some general information may be useful.
General Rules on Beneficiary Designations
A life insurance policyholder has the same power to make changes to beneficiary designations as he or she did when making the initial purchase of the policy. The owner may remove or add names, or replace someone at any time, for any reason – without the beneficiary’s consent. All that’s required is that the person be of sound mind and not be under duress or undue influence when making the change.
The beneficiary who was cut out of the life insurance proceeds may not know of the removal until after the policyholder dies, which can put that person in a tough spot. Often, the funds would be applied to the costs of the funeral and burial expenses, or to pay off bills.
Last Minute Changes that Raise Red Flags
While a life insurance policy holder may change a beneficiary because of a rift with that person or to financially provide for someone else that needs the money, last minute changes are highly questionable. Red flags that should alarm you might be if the alteration occurs when the insured is deathly ill, in the hospital or hospice, or is adjudicated as incompetent. The key is to look at the date the beneficiary designation was changed, and whether it was within weeks or days before the insured died.
Typically, a caregiver or person with access to the insured’s personal finances will contact the company that holds the life insurance policy. He or she may request change-of-beneficiary forms and ask about the process. When the wrongdoer receives the paperwork, he or she might assist the holder of the policy in altering and signing the forms – without explaining what they are and how they operate. The caregiver or relative is now the sole beneficiary entitled to the proceeds upon death.
Talk to a Lawyer at Our Columbus Office Today
If you believe there are questionable circumstances surrounding a loved one’s change of beneficiary on a life insurance policy, it’s critical that you take action immediately. You do have options to address misconduct, but you’ll need a skilled probate attorney to protect your interests. At the Law Office of Mike Gertner, our probate team is ready to help. Our lawyers have more than four decades of experience assisting clients who have suffered financial consequences after a beneficiary change. Please call our Columbus office today at 614-463-9393 or 877-772-1011 to schedule your free initial legal consultation.