The person who owns a life insurance policy can change the beneficiaries to that policy at any time, and there is no need for the existing beneficiary to know or consent. The sole exception would be if the existing beneficiary is irrevocable; any other beneficiaries can be changed at any time and as frequently as the policy owner likes.
A last minute beneficiary change could come as a surprise to family members or others who were expecting to receive benefits after a loved one has passed. It may sound like something out of a movie, but last minute changes can and do shock people who expect to receive the proceeds of a policy after a family member has died. In most cases, the insurance company will verify a beneficiary change, but problems can occur with last minute beneficiary changes. If the insured person is elderly, in a nursing home or very ill, a last minute change could seem suspicious to others.
A last minute change is one that happens in the days directly proceeding the death of the insured person. Often, the person's caretaker or a family member accesses the insured's life insurance document and asks the insurance company for the forms needed to change the beneficiary. They then have the insured sign the forms and send them back to the insurance company.
Is a Last Minute Beneficiary Change Valid?
Perhaps, but we can fight it. The beneficiary change may "count" if it is done by an insured person who is able to understand what they are signing and what will happen if they change the beneficiary. The person needs to be of sound mind and not be under any kind of duress, threat or influence for the change to be considered valid.
Every insurer is different, but in most cases, witnesses are required when a change of beneficiary form is signed. The change of beneficiary form must comply with the written rules in the policy, and usually needs to arrive at the office of the insurance company before the insured passes on to be effective.
Can you Contest a Last Minute Beneficiary Change?
If there has been a last minute change, the original beneficiary may not even be aware of it; both the new and the original beneficiary could file claims for the same benefits. If this happens, the insurance company will review the beneficiary change to see if all provisions were truly met; if they find the change to be valid, they will pay the new beneficiary.
The original beneficiary can contest this by providing clear evidence of wrongdoing or fraud. If the policy holder signed the change from under duress or when they were no longer capable of understanding what they were doing, the original beneficiary can contest the distribution of benefits
If there is a contested beneficiary, there will likely be a life insurance interpleader; this is a complex matter and will require one of our experienced life insurance attorneys with the specific legal expertise to unravel.
If you were expecting to receive life insurance benefits and discovered there was a last minute beneficiary change, we're here for you. We've won hundreds of these types of cases. No other lawyer or law firm can hold a candle to us here. Bottom line is you need an experienced life insurance lawyer, one with at least 15 years of experience in resolving these claims. Contact us to talk about your case and learn more about your options.