Uncertainty of Life Insurance Beneficiaries

By HSK, August 1, 2014

The Fifth District Court of Appeals has recently added to the body of law regarding payment of money to a beneficiary because of the death of an account owner.  Probate court does not get involved in these types of cases, but the issues are certainly related to what is decided in probate court.  In this particular case, a life insurance policy had a beneficiary listed, but the policy owner sent a letter to the life insurance company indicating an intent to change the beneficiary to the name of her new husband, but she never filled out the form she was sent.  The policy owner later remarried after being made a widow by the husband she wanted to indicate as the new beneficiary some years prior.  Amazingly, even that husband died before she did.  When she did die, uncertainty existed as to who she wanted to have the money.   The court ruled that the trial judge had to find out who the policy holder really wanted to benefit.  The change of beneficiary form no longer controls once a dispute has been filed in court and the life insurance company asks the court who should get the money.  This holding also applies to other types of arrangements where money passes because of the death of an account owner or policy owner; i.e. life insurance, IRA’s, and pensions.

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