Can I sue my surviving parent for excluding me from my deceased mother’s life policy if I was a listed beneficiary?

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Can I sue my surviving parent for excluding me from my deceased mother’s life policy if I was a listed beneficiary?

I am a adult natural decedent of the deceased and the surviving spouse. The policy in question was likely a term policy in effect for approximately 10 plus years. It was declared payable upon the decedent’s death (my mother) from cerebral hemorrhage 2 years ago. To the best of my recollection both my father and my mother had a life insurance policy that listed my brother and I as per capita beneficiaries in the event of death. The last time it was discussed was over 10 years ago, when my father changed jobs and thus changed carriers. Since my mother’s death, neither my brother, my father, nor my half-sister (from mother’s first marriage) have spoken to me and while this hurts me emotionally, the fact that both my brother and my father have paid off their house mortgages, purchased several new vehicles and have in other ways become suddenly much more well off in the recent months, is a mark of concern. Would it be possible that my father malevolently enjoined my brother to declare me in some way no longer a payable beneficiary? The more likely result may be that he was primary and my brother and I were contingents,but as I have no contact with either of them, and even if I did, the subject would be verboten to discuss. If indeed he acted in bad faith, or some other manner of malfeasance occurred, what should I do?

Asked on April 28, 2017 under Insurance Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If you were a listed beneficiary (not a contingent beneficiary, if the main beneficiary(ies) was still alive), the insurer should have paid you your share of the policy proceeds. If you were not a listed beneficiary, you had no right to the proceeds: intention and "bad faith" motives are irrelevant, since an insurance policy is a contract, and all that matters is what the policy/contract said. So there are three scenarios:
1) You are not a beneficiary: you are not entitled to anything.
2) You were a beneficiary and the insurer improperly failed to pay you your share: the insurer would be liable for having violated its policy/contractual obligations and would be the one to pay.
3) You were a beneficiary, the insurer sent a check for you care of your father or another beneficiary and they took it for themselves (i.e. whatever payment was coming to you was intercepted or diverted and stolen by someone else). In this case, the person(s) who took your money would be liable.
If you think that you were entitled to money from the policy, then either 2) or 3) occured--either the insurer erred, or someone else took the money somehow. Since you don't know at this stage who did what, you would most likely sue both the insurer and the relatives you suspect. In the lawsuit, you can use the legal mechanisms of "discovery" (written questions or interrogatories; document production requests; etc.) to get a copy of the policy, to find out who was sent money, to see if there was any payment for you and, if so, who received it, etc.--i.e. in the lawsuit, you can get the information needed to see what happened and if there is anyone to hold liable. 
But remember: if it turns out you were not a beneficiary, then no matter what you think of others' motives, you were not entitled to anything.


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