Who has the right to a TOD?

My father died 9 months ago. His Will left everything to his then current wife (my stepmother). My parents executed a revocable family Trust about 13 years ago, before my mother died. The Trust was never revoked. One of the assets in it, an investment account that included a TOD naming the family Trust, is now in limbo because my father’s wife/widow claims that it was his intention that she have that money. She claims that he told the investment advisor verbally and in an email that those were his wishes. ?

Asked on June 6, 2014 under Estate Planning, California


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss. There are many issues here that need sorting out by a lawyer who can read the documents in light of each other, the case law and the law regarding a wife's elective share in your state. Generally speaking a TOD is a beneficiary designation and such a designation governs distribution. His investment advisor should have advised your Father to change the TOD or his lawyer to revoke the Trust prior to death if that were the case.  This may be a long drawn out battle - or maybe not if the documents hold up - so seek legal help and consider (if it is going to be a battle) coming up with a settlement amount. Good luck.

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