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Joseph, Lawyer
Category: Legal
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Experience:  Attorney with significant and substantial experience in multiple areas of law.
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My husband recently passed away. We live in California. I

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My husband recently passed away. We live in California. I found out that 2 years ago he changed the beneficiary on his term life insurance policy without telling me. He owns the policy, but I was named as the beneficiary. I was told that he can not do this in a community property state and that the spouses signature is required on any change of beneficiary. Is this true? What legal grounds do I have that this was an invalid change made. I have seen the copy of the change of beneficiary form from the company, and there is a line for my signature as required in community property states, but it was left blank. What are my legal arguments on this?
Hello and welcome to JustAnswer

I'm sorry to hear about your situation and hope I can help.

My goal is to provide you with excellent service today.

I need a bit more information from you before I can proceed to provide you with a complete and thorough answer to your question.

Thanks in advance.

Can you tell me, if you know, whether the life insurance policy's premiums paid by community property funds or by your husband's personal funds?

Or was the policy from work? If so, how many total years did he work for the company, and how many years during your marriage, if you know?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

The funds were paid with community funds

Thanks for the clarification.

Since the insurance policy was purchased with community property funds, you and your husband own it equally (each owning half or 50 percent). This means that while your husband can designate a beneficiary other than you for 50 percent of the property, you are entitled to the other 50 percent of the policy regardless of who he names.

So, if he named this other person as the sole beneficiary, you are still entitled to 50 percent and the other person would receive 50 percent (the amount that your husband could determine what to do with his half of the life insurance policy).

This is because under community property, you and your husband both have equal shares. While it was legal for him to name another beneficiary without your consent (that piece of information you hear is wrong), you are still entitled to half of the life insurance policy.

You should contact the insurance company to ensure that you receive the 50 percent of the policy to which you are entitled.

I realize the above information is (at least in part) not what you wanted to hear and I sincerely XXXXX XXXXX had better news to give you, but I hope you appreciate an honest and direct answer to your question. It would be unprofessional of me and unfair to you to provide you with anything less.

Please let me know if you have any follow up or clarifying questions as I want to ensure that you are completely satisfied with my service.

If not, please remember to rate my answer positively so I get paid for my work.

Thanks and best of luck!
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I understand your answer. Community property state means 50/50 on everything obtained during marriage. What I don't understand is why then do all change of beneficiary forms in community property states require spouse signature. Does that pertain to changing the whole insurance policy? And thus, if no signature, then one still has the right to change his 50% share. Is this considered a breach of fiduciary duty in any way, as community property was involved without consent of spouse?

All forms don't require the spouse's signature. The spouse only needs to sign in order to make the person listed receive the entire policy instead of just 50%. So, had you signed, then the beneficiary listed, would be entitled to the entire policy, not just 50%.

Yes, you are correct that the spouse who has the insurance policy has the right to change the 50% beneficiary (not the other spouse) without the other spouse's signature.

It wouldn't be considered a breach of fiduciary duty in this regards, XXXXX XXXXX restricts the non-spouse beneficiary to only receiving 50$ of the insurance policy.
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