It is a common question: “Can you dispute a life insurance beneficiary?”
Contesting beneficiary designations arises for a variety of reasons, among them:
- Beneficiary fraud;
- Life changes by the policy holder including marriage, divorce, remarriage, adoption, childbirth; and
- Beneficiary changes near the policyholder’s end of life.
Securing professional representation in the negotiation and litigation of a beneficiary claim can be challenging. These claims often pit vulnerable plaintiffs against well financed defendants. Many commentators and professionals are concerned that the middle class cannot afford lawyers. As an interesting note, the Texas Supreme Court created a commission to address the issue.
The 2017 Justice Gap Report reported that 86% of the civil legal problems reported by low -income Americans received inadequate or no legal help. Of course, a significant percentage of America’s middle-income families have the same problem. Given these statistics, it is little wonder that many clients with life insurance beneficiary challenges seek out contingency lawyers. Many simply cannot afford hourly fees.
In the words of the American Bar Association –
A fee may be contingent on the outcome of the matter for which the service is rendered, except in a matter in which a contingent fee is prohibited … A contingent fee agreement shall be in a writing signed by the client and shall state the method by which the fee is to be determined, including the percentage or percentages that shall accrue to the lawyer in the event of settlement, trial or appeal; litigation and other expenses to be deducted from the recovery; and whether such expenses are to be deducted before or after the contingent fee is calculated. The agreement must clearly notify the client of any expenses for which the client will be liable whether or not the client is the prevailing party. Upon conclusion of a contingent fee matter, the lawyer shall provide the client with a written statement stating the outcome of the matter and, if there is a recovery, showing the remittance to the client and the method of its determination.
When Hackard Law represents clients in life insurance beneficiary disputes we adhere to the ethical rules set in place by the State Bar and the safeguards of California’s Business and Professions Code. These include the following guidelines:
- The agreement is in writing with a signed duplicate provided to the client;
- The client is notified that the fee is negotiable;
- The client is notified of the percentage fee as well as how costs and disbursements will affect the size of the fee and the client’s recovery.
Hackard Law focuses on representing clients in significant cases where we think that we can make a substantial difference and there is a wrongdoer who can be made financially accountable for their wrongdoing. California life insurance beneficiary disputes in California are usually filed and tried in the county where the defendant lives.
If you think a contingency arrangement may be right for your case, you can call us at 916-313-3030. We’ll be glad to hear your story and see how we can help you.