If you were cheated out of your inheritance because your sister convinced Dad to change his will, leaving everything to her, you probably know you can contest Dad’s will after he dies.

But what if your sister convinces Dad to change all the beneficiary designations on his retirement accounts, annuities, and life insurance? In some cases, that’s the majority of a person’s estate.

You can contest that too, it turns out. The same legal principles that allow a will contest – forgery, fraud, undue influence, for example – also apply to changes in beneficiary designation.

In Pennsylvania, where I practice, courts permit challenges to changes in beneficiary designation, using legal standards quite similar to those used in will contests.

It’s not unusual for someone to have a large portion of his or her assets in beneficiary designated accounts. Many companies offer 401(k) accounts to build up employees’ retirement savings. Life insurance remains popular due to its value in creating estate assets, and its tax advantages. Annuities appeal to those who seek better returns in a low-interest environment.

So it’s important to realize that an unscrupulous person cannot avoid a court contest simply by having someone make unfair changes to beneficiary designations, instead of changes to a will. Under the right circumstances, either method can be challenged in court.

Call our office at 412-531-7123 to discuss your situation if you believe you have not received your fair share of someone’s estate.


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