“My stepmother was less than ethical”: I suspect my stepmother removed me as the beneficiary of my late father’s life insurance policy. What can I do?


By Quentin Fottrell

“She had previously stolen money from her sister’s bank account while working for the financial institution she now runs”

Dear Quentin,

My father passed away in March 2019. My mother-in-law told me that I had an inheritance from my father. She stopped communicating with me after my father passed away. I contacted the Ministry of Financial Services website for lost life insurance policies and received a letter saying my father was a participant, but had named someone other than me as the beneficiary.

My mother-in-law has sometimes been less ethical. She previously stole money from her sister’s bank account while working for the financial institution she now runs. Her sister didn’t press charges, so the case was dropped by my father, with whom she was having an affair. Is it possible that she changed beneficiaries and could have forged anything in my father’s name?

My family also suspects that they tried to cash out another life insurance policy of which I was a 51% beneficiary. She sent me a check after my dad passed away saying it was a “gift” and called me nearly two years later to say a policy had just been “found” with me as 51% beneficiary. I suspect she was the 49% beneficiary. To make matters worse, this policy went through his place of business.

suspicious girl

Dear suspect,

Everything is possible. It looks like you are dealing with an unknown quantity, and it should not be trusted with other people’s money. Your mother-in-law doesn’t seem to be on the right track from your account, as she allegedly stole money from her sister’s bank account. She may not be able to bring herself to cash in on a policy with you receiving 49% – hence the delay – but given the split depicted in the policy, it seems unlikely that she could have kept all of the police for themselves. An executor has the responsibility to deal with an estate in a timely manner.

It is not uncommon for people to question an amendment made to a trust, an insurance policy or a last will. Priscilla Presley, the ex-wife of Elvis Presley, the ‘king of rock and roll’ who died in 1977, filed legal papers in Los Angeles Superior Court last week challenging the validity of an amendment to a living trust overseeing the estate of his late daughter Lisa Marie Presley, who died earlier this month. The 2016 amendment removed Priscilla Presley and a former business executive as trustees, the Associated Press reported.

Among the issues cited in the legal filing: Priscilla Presley was allegedly not notified of the change as required, lack of a witness or notarization, Priscilla Presley’s name was misspelled in a document that was allegedly signed by his late daughter, and Lisa Marie Presley’s own signature has been called atypical, the news agency also reported. Aside from swirling questions about the authenticity of an amendment, changes to wills, trusts, and – in your case – insurance policies must always meet certain legal standards.

“Last-minute changes in beneficiaries can be a red flag for life insurance companies,” according to LifeInsuranceAttorney.com. “As a general rule, the insured of a life insurance contract may change beneficiaries whenever he wishes, provided that the change complies with the specific requirements of the life insurance contract. However, when the insured is elderly, seriously ill or incapacitated, and the change of beneficiary takes place shortly before the death of the insured, he may have been unduly influenced by others.”

“For example, a caregiver or separated family member may convince or influence the vulnerable insured to add them as a beneficiary on the insured’s life insurance policy or to remove other beneficiaries,” indicates the firm. Additionally, “life insurance companies may also deny claims if the beneficiary made a beneficiary change that did not comply with the requirements of the insured’s life insurance policy. Some policies may require that the insured has a certain amount of witnesses present,” he adds.

Depending on the amount of money involved, you may want to hire a lawyer to see if you have a case and/or to reassure you. The statute of limitations – that is, the time you have to challenge the validity of a life insurance policy – can vary depending on the circumstances, the state in which you live and/or whether or not new information is discovered. “The statute of limitations, in most cases, is three years. But not always,” according to the Center for Life Insurance Disputes, an insurance agency in Washington, D.C.

She stopped talking to you after your father died: she may have consolidated what was left of his estate and thought about what she could take for herself. Or it could be that you didn’t get along, and a breakdown in communication was inevitable. Or both. Were there any changes made to your father’s policy that would raise a red flag? It is not clear. Your mother-in-law may have learned her lesson when she wasn’t sued by her sister for alleged financial malfeasance.

And, again, maybe not.

You can email The Moneyist for all coronavirus-related financial and ethical questions at qf[email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter

Check out the private Moneyist Facebook group, where we seek answers to life’s trickiest money problems. Readers write to me with all sorts of dilemmas. Ask your questions, tell me what you want to know more or weigh in on the latest Moneyist columns.

The Moneyist regrets not being able to answer the questions individually.

More from Quentin Fottrell:

My mother excluded me from her will – before she died, my brother cashed in her annuity policy, of which I was the beneficiary. Should I sue my family?

“I am clean and sober”: my late father left me 25% of his estate and my rich brother 75%. My brother died 10 months later. Should I ask his son for his share?

“It’s still painful”: my wife, only a year ago, left me, took all her things and doesn’t answer her phone. How do I protect my finances?

-Quentin Fottrell


(END) Dow Jones Newswire

01/31/23 1916 ET

Copyright (c) 2023 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.



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