Adding a life insurance beneficiary to your policy toward the end of your life is a recipe for disaster.  The addition of a last-minute beneficiary will do more than raise a few eyebrows; the life insurance provider will contest the policy change in an attempt to reduce or even deny a payout.

Why a Last-minute Life Insurance Beneficiary Change is a bad Idea

beneficiary changeThough every life insurance policy owner is empowered to change the beneficiary on their life insurance policy, any such change will raise suspicion.  The life insurance provider will review the beneficiary alteration before making it effective or contesting it.  If you are on or near your deathbed and make such a change, there is a good chance the life insurance company will deny the change.  Even if you are ill, of diminished mental capacity or in a hospital/nursing home, the insurer will likely contest the beneficiary change.  If the beneficiary change occurs on the day of the insured party’s death or even a few days prior to death, it is nearly guaranteed it will be contested.  Furthermore, if there is any evidence someone helped the insured individual sign the beneficiary change forms, the change will be deemed invalid.

Is There any Chance the Last-minute Beneficiary Change Will be Approved?

Though unlikely, there is the potential for the life insurance provider to approve the last-minute beneficiary change.  As long as the insured party has the mental capacity necessary to truly understand what the beneficiary documents mean and the consequences of the change, the insurance company might approve it without putting up a fight.  However, there is a good chance the insurer will question whether the insured party acted out of free will without outside influence.

Requirements for Beneficiary Changes

Life insurance providers typically have a series of nuanced requirements that must be met for beneficiary changes.  As an example, most life insurance providers mandate a minimum of two witnesses be present to sign the change-of-beneficiary form.  Some insurers require the completed form be provided to their office prior to the insured party’s death. If the beneficiary alteration does not adhere to the unique provisions of the policy, the change is not valid.  Above all, the paperwork detailing the beneficiary change must arrive at the life insurance company’s office before the insured party passes away. If the paperwork is received after the insured party passes away, it is nearly guaranteed the insurer will not allow the change.

If the newly-named beneficiary and the prior beneficiary each submit claims for life insurance benefits, the insurance company will review the documents to determine if the change was made in accordance with the nuances of the policy’s provisions.  As long as the alteration is in compliance with the insurance provider’s rules for an alteration, it is possible the claim will be paid to the newly-named beneficiary as opposed to the beneficiary originally named in the policy.

Contesting Last-minute Life Insurance Beneficiary Changes

The original beneficiary is empowered to contest a last-minute alteration by presenting proof of physical or mental incapacity, action under duress, outright fraud or undue influence.  This conflict has the potential to reach litigation if the contesting party insists he or she is the rightful policy beneficiary. If such a conflict develops, the services of a life insurance interpleader will likely be necessary to iron out the complexities of this highly-detailed matter.  This means those who were removed from the life insurance beneficiary form at the last minute really do stand a decent chance of a successful claim. There is no shame in contesting a life insurance beneficiary change, especially if you think it would help carry out the insured party’s wishes.

The Moral of the Story?  Prepare Ahead of Time!

If you have a life insurance policy, choose your beneficiary wisely and do not wait until you are near the end of your life to change the beneficiary.  A change at the last minute will draw attention from the life insurance provider as well as the original beneficiary.  Even if you think you have played by the rules and complied with the insurer’s requirements, there is still a good chance the beneficiary change will be contested.

If you are considering changing your life insurance beneficiary, reach out to the insurance provider right away.  Ask the insurance company what their unique requirements are to change beneficiaries. Make this inquiry as soon as possible so you can submit the paperwork for a beneficiary change before you enter a hospital, nursing home or depart this plane of existence.

It will also help to notify the original beneficiary you are changing your life insurance policy so he or she is not angered when learning of their removal from the policy after you pass away.  Be honest with all parties, make your intentions clear, change your life insurance beneficiary before you lose your mental or physical faculties and there is a good chance it will not be contested.


  1. I have been with my husband for 48 years, his family has a history of dementia, we are all sure he has more then an onset, he has changed a great deal, rational thinking is not a topic he will entertain. Now at age 89, he has chosen to take me, his wife off as beneficiary and name his children who has not visited him in over 20+ years. What can I do ? I spoke with his doctor, And he sees I problem, but he doesn’t live with him. This is sad and upsetting.

    1. If you can prove that he is incapacitated you may be able to prevent the change of beneficiary. You should contact the insurance company that issued the policy. They may require that you get documentation from his doctor. You can also pursue being appointed as his power of attorney, which will allow you to make beneficiary changes on his life insurance policy.

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