Can the beneficiary of alife insurance policybe changed after the death of the policy owner?

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Can the beneficiary of alife insurance policybe changed after the death of the policy owner?

My father passed away in 02/10. My stepmother and her daughter acted as the executors of the estate. The Will was very direct as to the distribution of his assets. My father’s insurance policies still named my mother, who passed away 40 years ago, as the beneficiary of his life insurance policies. My stepmother and her daughter changed the beneficiary name to my stepmother’s name so she could receive the insurance benefits. This has bothered me for some time. Is this legal? Who should have received the insurance benefits?

Asked on January 8, 2011 under Insurance Law, Georgia

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  No, it is not legal.  Only the named insured - your Father - could have changed the life insurance policy's designation of beneficiary form.  What generally happens is that if the named beneficiary is no longer alive when the insured passes away and there is no "contingent" beneficiary named, the life insurance policy itself indicates who or what is to receive the proceeds.  Most likey here it named your Father's estate as the beneficiary.  It goes in to the general estate and is covered by the "residuary clause" in the Will: rest, residue and remainder of my estate.  If he dies without a Will then it is distributed with the rest of his estate through the intestacy statutes.  Your step-mother could have ended up with it anyway but the way she went around obtaining the proceeds was in fact against the law.  Seek legal help.  Good luck.


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