American Association of Justice

Beneficiary Disputes

After a loved one passes away, there may be a dispute about who is the proper beneficiary of his or her life insurance policy. The dispute frequently involves family members, former spouses, or other persons with a relationship to the insured.

These can be hotly-contested cases that bring up strong emotions among the parties. We have experience representing persons in these cases both as named and unnamed beneficiaries.

There are important factors and considerations in these cases that lawyers who do not litigate life insurance cases may not be aware of. For instance, New York enacted a law that prevents a divorced spouse from receiving the death benefit, if named as the beneficiary prior to the date of divorce, unless certain conditions are met.

It may also be significant if the policy was obtained through employment and governed by ERISA, which is a federal law, or if it was purchased in the private insurance market and is subject to state law.

Other issues that often arise is whether the beneficiary designation was validly made. There are cases where the insured made a beneficiary change when not of sound mind, when under the undue influence of another person, or when under duress. In addition, some beneficiary changes may be the result of forgery. Under these circumstances, the named beneficiary may not be allowed to recover the death benefit.

Often these cases end up in court when the insurance company files what is called an interpleader action. The insurance company deposits the death benefit in court and then gets dismissed from the case so that the persons claiming beneficiary status can litigate against one another.

Since interpleader actions are frequently filed in federal court, it is important to have a lawyer who is accustomed to its practices and procedures. We have litigated many cases in federal court.

If you are involved in a beneficiary dispute for a life insurance policy, you can call the Law Offices of Eric Dinnocenzo at (212) 933-1675 for a free consultation.

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