When an estate plan has mistakes: Your legal options

You were there with the attorney who drew up your father's will and estate plan. You know that the beneficiaries changed at the last meeting, taking away assets from some who had become distanced from the family and shifting them to newly born members of your family who could best benefit from assets as they grow. Your dad forgot to talk about his life-insurance policy, though. You assumed the will's update would cover anything he missed.

When your father passed away, you were shocked to find out that the insurance policy recognized the old beneficiaries, not your father's new beneficiary preferences. You show the company the will, but it won't recognize the changes since it has its own beneficiary designations. What can you do?

Situations like this do come up fairly often in estate planning. It's always important to work with a professional whenever you make major changes to your estate plan, because beneficiary designations have to be changed across the board, not just in a will. In fact, there are a number of assets that don't pass by will but instead pass through titles or beneficiary designations alone.

For instance, if you and the deceased owned property together with both your names on it, the deceased could not will the entire property away. Instead, he or she could only will his or her portion of the title to another person. With life insurance, anyone designated as a beneficiary on the company-held documents holds up in court.

You do have the right to take the case to court if you believe that the beneficiaries are outdated and incorrect, though. If you have proof that the individuals that are currently beneficiaries have been disinherited, for example, then you could have the beneficiaries changed in court. Your attorney can help present the case, so you can move forward.

Source: NJ.com, "Mom screwed up her estate plan. What now?," Karin Price Mueller, May 01, 2017

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