Challenging non-testamentary designations

Much of the "action" in probate litigation these days does not involve challenges to testamentary dispositions.  Instead, I see more of a trend in my practice of challenges to beneficiary designations.  Those include designations for:

Typically, a letter to an institution asserting a challenge will be sufficient to put payment in suspense.  That will lead to a period of opportunity for negotiation and, failing that, an interpleader suit.  I have encountered a few situations where a financial institution, usually a brokerage, will demand a court order freezing an account.  That typically means suing the institution and obtaining a TRO.  That is not my preferred route, but sometimes necessary.  The institution will respond with an interpleader, seeking to deposit the funds and be discharged from liability.  That will allow the competing claimants to battle over the funds. Common claims in a beneficiary dispute:

  • Claim of a lack of mental capacity to execute a designation

  • Claim that a designation was the product of undue influence

  • Claim that a designation was the product of fraud

  • Claim that the owner of the policy or account expressed a clear intent to change the beneficiary

  • Claim that the owner of a policy or account did or did not substantially comply with designation rules

  • Claim that a spouse is entitled to the proceeds

  • Claim that a designation in favor of an ex-spouse is overruled by a divorce

  • Claim that a divorce decree provides an ex-spouse with rights in the account or life insurance benefits

  • Claim that a power of attorney was wrongly used to designate a beneficiary

  • Claim that the beneficiary killed the account or policy owner

Beneficiary dispute lawyers

Life insurance, TXPLMichael Young