We are pro’s on life insurance beneficiary disputes.  These come up regularly.  A person who buys a policy on themself has the right to pick the beneficiary.  (There is additional complication in California, between married spouses, using community property funds, but again, that is why you need a lawyer.)  Life insurance beneficiary disputes happen under different situations, but these are common:

Beneficiary Designation Not Updated to Keep Up with Life Events
These days, lives and family structures can easily change.  A marriage, death or divorce can reasonably call for a change to beneficiary designation.  Sometimes, with everything going on, those changes are not made.  A marriage that ends in divorce, a new marriage where the beneficiary is not updated from the brother of the insured to the new fiancé, the death of the first beneficiary designated (perhaps the insured’s parent) can all throw beneficiary designation into confusion.

A typical beneficiary situation arises commonly:  The second spouse.   The first marriage happened more than five years ago.  But suddenly a spouse passes away.   When he passed away unexpectedly last month, you found that he had never remembered to change the beneficiary on his life insurance policy. The proceeds went to his first wife.

These lawsuits about life insurance beneficiaries can be affected by whether state or federal law applies.   Even the U.S. Supreme Court can be involved, as it was in a 2013 case.  There, the U.S Supreme Court ruled in favor of an ex-spouse over a widow in such a dispute.  This was a strict interpretation of a particular federal law applicable in that case.  The divorced ex-spouse was not updated, and the U. S. Supreme Court found that the beneficiary designation form was controlling over even state law.

Beneficiary Designation Not Fully or Correctly Submitted
Life insurance beneficiary designations are important legal documents.  Different life insurance companies put different requirements on the completion of their forms.  Sometimes, even notarization is needed.   Forms are sometimes illegible, or incomplete.  Has the life insurance company written to confirm the life insurance beneficiary designation change?  Is there a possibility of fraud or wrongdoing in the change, or in the lack of a change?  The facts make a big difference.

These situation can arise when a grandparent talks about a change to a beneficiary form, to a new grandchild, or even that grandchild’s marriage.  But after the grandparent dies, the forms were not fully completed.  Who will be the beneficiary?

An elderly grandmother has lived in assisted care for a time.  Her family rarely visits.  A few months before she dies, there is a beneficiary change from her grandchildren to a regular caregiver.  Did she have capacity to change the beneficiary?  Was there undue influence?

Slayer Statutes: No Life Insurance Benefits for Murderers
No matter the designation, people who murder other people cannot take under the murdered person’s life insurance policy.  Certainly, the reasoning behind this policy and law is easy to see.  Life insurance companies cannot easily deny a beneficiary the benefits under a slayer statute.  Not only must the insured life have ended by murder, as determined by the police, coroner and other investigating public authorities, but the investigation must be active and serious, alleging that the beneficiary is responsible.  Simply having an unsolved murder or other suspicious circumstance is not enough.  To deny the benefits, there must be much more.

At times, life insurance companies will conduct some investigation on their own, contacting police authorities, coroner, and other investigating authorities.  For the insurance company to delay the payment of benefits will accrue interest on the benefits, as well.  But for the insurance company to unduly investigate, or even make allegations that a beneficiary is really a murderer and not allowed to take under the policy, requires significant objective evidence, as measured by the civilian police authorities.  These situations are usually clear to see, as well as being particularly sad.

Our Process is the Key to Winning Your Life Insurance Benefits Claim Case
These cases can be tough litigation and really depend on the facts and the intent of the insured.  There can be complicated state and federal law that applies.  In California, the nature of community property earnings is important.  An elderly or ill person’s capacity to understand is important.   The legal concept of undue influence over a person is significant.  Requirements small and large can have significant effect.

Many times, there will be a host of strong feelings between family members, spouses and former spouses, and even colorful family facts.  As your life insurance lawyer, we can help focus the life insurance company on the true and important facts that are necessary to support or defend your claim for life insurance benefits.  We work tirelessly to fight for your life insurance benefits.  You have, unfortunately, already suffered the loss of life of a loved one; we are here to help be sure you get the life insurance benefits.

These disputes can be handled in the state and federal courts and may be involved in interpleader actions.  In an interpleader action, the life insurance company provides the insurance benefits to the Court, for the Court to determine who is the true and correct beneficiary.  Having us as your lawyer in a contested interpleader action is very important.

A crucial area in life insurance law cases is determining who gets the policy benefits.  That is, who is the beneficiary of the life insurance policy?  Is the correct, intended beneficiary fully evidenced by a beneficiary designation form as part of the policy?

We are very experienced at beneficiary disputes.  This is a very important area for finding the right lawyer to help you, because here, our heightened knowledge of the California insurance laws and regulations, and the Court cases that have come before, is really important to getting the results you need.