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Dwayne B.
Dwayne B., Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 26947
Experience:  Estate Law Expert
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My father took out a joint life insurance policy over 20 years

Customer Question

My father took out a joint life insurance policy over 20 years ago that is payable upon the deaths of him and my mother. My 2 sisters and I were named as beneficiaries. 3 years ago, one sister got my father to sign ownership of the policyto her, but he had dementia and she didn't tell him what he was signing, instead told him it was just verifying the addresses of the beneficiaries. While her reason at the time was to protect the policy because he wanted to assign creditors as beneficiaries, she has now removed my other sister and myself as beneficaries, naming herself as direct beneficiary and her husband as contingent. Our father died this summer but our mother is still alive and wants us to pursue getting this changed. My mother, as well as anyone who knew my dad, knows 100% he would have never knowingly transferred ownership to just one daughter. What legal recourse do we have since I am certain we can prove Daddy was tricked into signing it?
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Estate Law
Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 11 months ago.

Dwayne B. :

Hello and thank you for contacting us. This is Dwayne B. and I’m an expert here and looking forward to assisting you today. If at any point any of my answers aren’t clear please don’t hesitate to ask for clarification.

Dwayne B. :

I need you to be a little more specific in your question(s) if you could. When we answer general ones like "what recourse do I have" we have to give general answers and, invariably, the customer responds with "I already knew that". This type of forum works better if you ask specific questions so we know exactly what you are looking for.

Customer:

My sister is refusing to grant ownership to either my sister or myself and refuses to add us back as co-beneficiaries. My mother wants us to pursue this by legal means if necessary because Daddy was tricked into signing ownership to this sister. WE don't really know what to do...do we contact an insurance lawyer, estate lawyer, etc., or is there anything we can legally do to void the changes she made to the policy? WE have no idea what we are facing in getting this settled the way our father intended. He had Alzheimer's at the time she tricked him into signing ownership to her.

Customer:

We believe what she did was illegal and needs to be made right by whatever means necessary.

Customer:

Can a judge declare the changes invalid and revert the policy back to the way it was originally written?

Customer:

What charges can be brought against this sister?

Dwayne B. :

Your best bet is to hire a Probate lawyer who does probate litigation. The next best choice is to hire a Civil Litigation attorney.

Dwayne B. :

The lawyer will likely have to have to file what is known as a Declaratory Judgment action to have the judge declare that the change of beneficiaries was not done with knowledge of what he was doing.

Dwayne B. :

The judge can declare the changes void and then the policy will revert to where it was before the changes were made.

Dwayne B. :

As far as charges, it is unlikely there would be any criminal charges brought by the police or the DA.

Dwayne B. :

It is possible depending on how the evidence develops but usually there wouldn't be criminal charges.

Dwayne B. :

The case will require medical testimony as well as witness testimony as to your father's condition

Dwayne B. :

It has been my experience in situations like this, many times the court will reverse the change in beneficiary so I'd say your chances are good.

Dwayne B. :

I will be online most of the day so if you have additional questions please feel free to ask them in this thread and I will come back into the Chat as soon as I finish with the customer I am helping.

Dwayne B. :

If all of your questions have been answered then I'd offer best wishes to you on this and ask you to please not to forget to leave a Positive Rating (of course I’d suggest Excellent!) so I get credit for my work.

Customer:

Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX answers are very helpful in heading us in the direction we need to go. We have countless people - physicians, caregivers, family, and friends, as well as our mother, who can testify that my father had no idea what he was signing. It's just a shame that we have to do this on the heals of our father's death. Thanks for you help!

Customer:

Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX answer and clarification of the process of getting the insurance policy changed to what our father intended is very helpful. We have countless people - physicians, caregivers, friends, family, and our mother, who can testify that our dad had absolutely no ideas what he was signing. It's just very sad that our sister did this and now we have to deal with it on the heals of our father's death. Thanks again & I will certainly give you an "excellent" rating!

Customer:

(Didn't mean to answer twice...my post disappeared and I thought I had accidently deleted it!)

Dwayne B., Attorney
Category: Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 26947
Experience: Estate Law Expert
Dwayne B. and 5 other Estate Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 10 months ago.

I have just discovered that my mother, who is still alive, was the owner of the life insurance policy in question instead of my father, who is now deceased. She has no mental/cognitive issues other than typical old-age forgetfulness and is now aware of what my sister has done. She wants to have the change of ownership and resulting change of beneficiaries revoked before she dies so that the policy will be what she and my dad intended. She is willing to file a petition stating she was not told what she was signing in transferring ownership of the life insurance policy to my sister and that neither she, nor my dad, would have knowingly assigned anything to just one daughter to the exclusion the other two. This sister frequently brings documents for her to sign and tells her it is just routine address confirmation, etc. If my mother questions it, she gets irritated with her and my mother signs whatever it is to avoid conflict with my sister. I'm thinking that since my mother is still alive and able to speak for herself, it should be relatively simple to get the ownership/beneficiary changes reversed. I have sent a letter to this sister asking her to make the changes without the need for legal intervention, but she has not responded and I do not think she will do this unless forced legally. My question is: since my mother can speak for herself and state that she didn't know she was granting ownership to my sister, do you think we have a good case? I realize we will need to consult with an attorney to handle the proceedings but just want a general idea of what we are facing. I don't want my mother in a court room if we can avoid it. Would this likely be handled by a judge reviewing it or will this be in court? Thank you.

Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 10 months ago.
Yes, if your mother will testify she did not know what she was signing she would have a good case, particularly if she did not receive anything in return for her signature.

All cases have to be handled in open court, but this is one that will likely be handled by a judge (instead of a jury) and may not even be required to have a normal hearing. The lawyer may even be able to contact the insurance company and, depending on how the policy is written, have your mother just revoke the change without having to file a lawsuit. It is more likely that one will have to be filed but still possible it will not.
Customer: replied 10 months ago.


Thank you. My sisters and I all have Power of Attorney for our mother, as we did for my father until his death. Will that have any bearing on this, as in my sister saying she had the legal right to transfer ownership to herself because through POA?


 

Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 10 months ago.
It will have a bearing on this because a POA doesn't allow her to do things which work to her benefit. She can only use it to benefit the person who gave her the POA.
Customer: replied 10 months ago.


Thank you. My hope is that this sister will decide to do the "right thing" in this so that we can avoid my mother having to file a case against her own daughter. At the time my sister took the ownership of the policy, I don't think she had any motive other than to preserve the policy and prevent our dad from giving it to the bank, but that is no longer the case. She wants, and feels entitled to it all, in direct conflict with what she knows both our parents intended.


 


Will her motive at the time she made the ownership change have any bearing or is it just a matter of our mother not being aware of what she was signing?

Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 10 months ago.
I don't think motive will matter much, if any. The fact that your mother was unaware should be enough to reverse it.
Customer: replied 10 months ago.


Thank you, again. You have been very helpful.

Expert:  Dwayne B. replied 10 months ago.
You're very welcome.

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