Can my sister sue me for my father’s life insurance if I was the beneficiary?

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Can my sister sue me for my father’s life insurance if I was the beneficiary?

Prior to my father’s death he made a handwritten Will stating that any cash was to be distributed equally amongst his children. When he died he basically was penniless (no cash, no bank accounts). All he had was life insurance, I am the beneficiary. Most of the life insurance money was used for his funeral cost. My sister is trying to sue me for part of that money, can she do that? His Will stated nothing in regards to his life insurance, only cash.

Asked on August 12, 2010 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I am sorry for your loss and your troubles.  What you Father did was create what is known as a Holographic Will, which California recognizes under certain circumstances.  But even so the terms of the handwritten will that you describe would have been followed if the will was found to be invalid pursuant to the intestacy statutes: all children share equally.  But those issues are moot in that there were no assets to distribute.  I only mention them here to clarify what happened.

As for the life insurance policy, it is your and yours alone, as long s there was a valid desingation of beneficiary on file with the insurance company and there was no wrong doing (such as undue influence on your Father by you) in its execution.  The fact that you paid for the funeral was just pure kindness on your part.  Your siblings should have contributed to it as well.  Life insurance policies are said to "pass outside the Will" when there is a valid designation of beneficiary.  That means that they are not considered part of the estate of the decadent and pass directly to the beneficiary upon the decadents death.  Seek help if she sues and counter sue for the funeral expenses and attorneys fees. Good luck.


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