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Can an executor of the estate sue the beneficiary of life insurance?

West Des Moines, IA |

If there is only on beneficiary for life insurance and it is not the executor of the estate can the executor sue the beneficiary for any portion of that money?

Attorney Answers 2


  1. Best answer

    I can imagine few circumstances under which an executor would have grounds to recover from a life insurance beneficiary. Fraud or duress being the only two off the top of my head.

    The whole point of naming a beneficiary is to provide that beneficiary with the proceeds using the many benefits life insurance brings (avoiding probate, tax benefits, liquidity etc). If the insured wants to change the beneficiary, they should have done so. Absent something out of the ordinary, like fraud or something, there would be no legitimate grounds to recover from a life insurance beneficiary.

    Matthew Johnson phone# 206.747.0313 is licensed in the State of Washington and performs bankruptcy, short sale negotiations, and estate planning in Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King and Pierce counties. The response does not constitute specific legal advice, which would require a full inquiry by the attorney into the complete background of the facts and circumstances surrounding this matter; rather, it is intended to be general legal information based on the limited information provided by the inquirer; it This response also does not constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship, which can only be established after a conflict of interest evaluation is completed, your case is accepted, and a fee agreement is signed. Johnson Legal Group, PLLC


  2. People can generally sue, if they are inclined to do so. WINNING is another matter completely. What grounds would the executor have to sue? Does the executor even have legal standing to sue? I would have the executor ask his/her attorney, but this sounds pretty dubious to me. Life insurance passes outside of probate and outside of a trust, unless the trust or estate is named as beneficiary. The life insurance company is contractually bound to honor the beneficiary designation. The only caveat to this would be that if the named beneficiary was an ex spouse of the decedent, then it is possible that the divorce judgment or property settlement waived the beneficiaries right to RETAIN the proceeds. In that case, MANY states have held that the proceeds are held in constructive trust for the estate (or perhaps the trust, in your case). If that is your case, then you have a much better chance of prevailing, provided you have good legal counsel.

    James Frederick

    ***Please be sure to mark if you find the answer "helpful" or a "best" answer. Thank you! I hope this helps. ***************************************** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state. I hope you our answer helpful!

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