If a person cashes a check as a beneficiary of an annuity, is she liable if it is later determined that she received the check in error?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Dec 16, 2011

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Insurance Question from Berea, KY

Asked on 12/16/2011

If a person cashes a check as a beneficiary of an annuity, is she liable if it is later determined that she received the check in error? A friend of mine received a check for $28000 from New York Life as a named beneficiary of an annuity. My friend did not recognize the name of the deceased benefactor. She called the insurance company, but they were not able to give her information about the person. She asked one agent if there was a will, and he said yes, the will specified the deceased daughter. But she asked another agent, and he said the company doesn't have access to the will. What should my friend do? How can she determine if the money is legally hers?

Answer given on December 16, 2011

If the check is made out to her, there should not be concerns as to her cashing it in error.  I would however call the company and fully explain her concerns.  Have her advise that she has some concerns about cashing the check as she does not know the deceased. They should be able to tell her something to alleviate her reservations.  A will and an annuity are two different things.  The beneficiary on the annuity has nothing to do with the will.  Make sure that they have the correct “Ann Smith” and the correct address. If she cashes it and still has reservations, tell her to put in into a CD for a couple of months on the rare chance a mistake was made and repayment may be necessary. 

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