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Can a beneficiary designation be challenged based on evidence that the designation was no longer decedent's intent?

Los Angeles, CA |

My friend's brother (Jon) died. One of the nonprobate assets is a life insurance policy on which his stepdaughter is the named beneficiary. Some time after the designation was made and before Jon died, his stepdaughter Tara developed a serious drug problem and began hanging around with other addicts. Jon told his siblings -- including in writing -- that if he died he didn't want anything to go to Tara because she would only use anything she received to buy drugs and kill herself, basically. He did not, however, change the beneficiary designation. Is there any way that designation can be challenged based on his professed intent regarding not giving money to his stepdaughter? Can it be challenged on any other basis?

Attorney Answers 3


  1. Best answer

    It can be challenged but only by a person who is a successor trustee or one who has been appointed as having authority to administrate the estate of the person who passed.


  2. No, only the actual owner of an account, or someone with power of attorney authorizing an action, can change a beneficiary while the account owner is alive.

    In addition, your hypothetical makes a great law school question, but that's all. John's statements of his intent regarding not wanting Tara to get the insurance would be hearsay and not admissible to prove that he wanted to change the account. That said, its not relevant. You cannot have to provision changed now unless you can show that Tara somehow prevented him from changing the designation (which would be very difficult to establish).

    Sorry, I know that's not what you wanted to hear.

    The general advice above does not constitute an attorney-client relationship: you haven't hired me or my firm or given me confidential information by posting on this public forum, and my answer on this public forum does not constitute attorney-client advice. IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: In order to comply with requirements imposed by the Internal Revenue Service, we inform you that any U.S. tax advice contained in this communication (including any attachments) is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any transaction or matter addressed herein.


  3. I agree with Mr. Schultz. This reads like a law school question. I rarely answer questions from "friends." This question is definitely not an exception.

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