Life insurance beneficiary contests can be shocking. A loved one dies with a life insurance policy intact. Maybe you knew about the policy – maybe you didn’t. But one thing that you didn’t know about was the named beneficiary.
Or, if you are the named beneficiary, you didn’t expect a challenge to your position. We’ve represented clients on the many multiple sides of this equation.
So, let’s start with a typical set of circumstances – to the extent that there is a typical set of circumstances. Your father is 85 years old. He has a trust. He’s the trustee during his lifetime, and under its terms you become the trustee at his death.
You and your sister are the named equal beneficiaries of your father’s trust. You are the successor trustee to his trust. Your father is ill, and he hires a caregiver to assist him. The caregiver provides help to your father for the six months leading up to his death.
Your father passes away. You start your job of gathering trust assets. You know that your father had a life insurance policy. He told you and your sister about it. You think that you and your sister are the beneficiaries of the life policy – not the trust.
Still, it is your job to marshal the trust and estate assets. You call the life insurance company, identify yourself, identify your deceased father, and inquire about the policy and the distribution of the policy’s death benefits.
The company tells you that there is a policy, but neither you nor your sister are the named policy beneficiary.
You find that your father changed the beneficiary shortly before he died. He named his housekeeper, Imelda, as the policy’s primary beneficiary. You know that at the time of the policy beneficiary change, your father was in hospice care. His mental, emotional and physical well-being were greatly impaired. He was vulnerable to undue influence.
And now, you have a million-dollar fight on your hands. You know that you need legal help. You know at this point you’re going to have to file a lawsuit. What kind of lawsuit? Where? How do you decide?
Hackard Law assists life insurance beneficiaries who have been cut out of a policy by undue influence or fraud. We also represent clients who are named beneficiaries but who face unjustified interlopers trying to get the proceeds of the policy.
Our practice is limited to matters that will be tried in California courts. Our representation is needed when multiple people claim they are entitled to life insurance benefits after the death of the insured. Some people think that they need the help of a life insurance attorney. That may be so, but the real help is accomplished by litigation counsel who are experienced in litigating on behalf of the beneficiaries to a life insurance policy.
Life insurance beneficiary litigation seems to arise in both predictable and unpredictable ways. Spousal life insurance beneficiary disputes can occur when a divorced or separated spouse with a life insurance policy dies without changing or removing his or her former spouse as the life insurance beneficiary.
These cases can be a little complex, and it helps to work with people conversant with the complexities. Among the complexities are “revocation-on-divorce” statutes and whether they are fully applicable or inapplicable by some exception or contract. Community property statutory provisions and rights may also impact death benefits from a policy that was paid for in whole or in part with community funds.
Disputes regularly break out over competing claims by siblings or members of a blended family. Insurance companies try to protect themselves from competing claims by using an interpleader action. This allows an insurance company to deposit the policy limits into an account controlled by the court – in California – the Superior Court. Multiple parties will then make their claims and the court will ultimately decide who is the rightful beneficiary.
Many times these cases settle in mediation or mandatory trial settlement conferences, usually the best possible resolution to a conflict. Hackard Law regularly represents family members involved in life insurance beneficiary disputes.
We take substantial cases where we think that we can make a significant difference and there is a wrongdoer who can be made financially accountable for their wrongdoing or breach of duty. If you would like to speak with us about your case, call us at Hackard Law: 916 313-3030.