How do get the beneficiary of a life insurance policy to share the proceeds with their siblings?

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How do get the beneficiary of a life insurance policy to share the proceeds with their siblings?

My father died a few months ago and I have 3 other siblings. My father had an insurance policy with his previous employer before he retired. He left my sister as the beneficiary because she’s the oldest. My father requested before he died that she do the right thing and split the policy equally among the 4 of us. He kept telling her, “I know your are the oldest and will do right by them”. So, are we entitled to any of our father’s policy since she was legally named the beneficiary? Do we have children’s right to inherit any or can we take legal action to receive our child parent of our fathers policy?

Asked on October 21, 2012 under Estate Planning, Georgia


Catherine Blackburn / Blackburn Law Firm

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Under the insurance contract, you and your siblings have no right to the insurance proceeds - only the sister who was named beneficiary has a right to those proceeds.

Insurance is a contract.  Part of the contract is the beneficiary.  Under the contract, the insurance company pays the proceeds to the beneficiary and the contract is fulfilled.  This has nothing to do with "the right thing" or an estate.  Insurance proceeds pass outside any estate and are not controlled by a will.

It is remotely possible that an attorney could help you and your siblings obtain a share of the insurance proceeds.  There is an equitable doctrine called "constructive trust" or maybe "unjust enrichment" that might help.  Depending on the circumstances and how much evidence there is that your father intended for your sister to split the proceeds among all the children, a court might order her to split the proceeds.  Even the threat of such legal action may cause her to do what it appears her father wanted her to do.

I suggest that you call several lawyers in the area where your father died and seek their advice.  This will not be an easy claim to make, and I would not be surprised if many lawyers simply told you that you have no case.  Keep calling until you find one or two who will meet with you and at least look into it.

Unfortunately, your situation is a common one.  It illustrates exactly why everyone needs a will, and why it is a very good idea to have a lawyer prepare the will.  Only lawyers can give legal advice.  Only lawyers can tell you the consequences of doing one thing or not doing another.  Internet programs are not complete.  Paralegals and document preparation services cannot give legal advice.  Financial planners can usually tell you the consequences but they won't prepare a will.  If your father had consulted a lawyer about a will, the lawyer would have explained how to avoid this problem.

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  I suggest you and your siblings make sure you have wills so that this does not happen to your loved ones.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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