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.

  2. Michelle R Smith

    my husband’s father passed away before he died he wanted to change benficary so that my husband’s mother would not get the insurance policy cuz she has demtina and is in a home… the day he died he signed me and my husband as bwnwfixary so we could support our 1 year old we sent paper work in but he put 5 14 instead of day he died 3 14… now we also filed for guardianship of his mother who was 100 percent on orgiganl one but my husband was second benficary with no percent signed to him be cuase he was a minor at the time can we do anything ro keep policy

    1. You may be able to prove that he intended to change the beneficiary. I would contact the life insurance company and demand to speak to a claims supervisor in order to explain the situation. You can also contact an agent of that company, who may advocate for you. It seems clear the intent was there to make the change.

  3. My husband left me after 38 yrs of marriage. I have always been the beneficiary of his life insurance, even after the divorce. I have been assured (even after being divorced 10 yrs. now) that I’m still the beneficiary. He even sent me a notarized letter in 2018 stating that I am the beneficiary. My question is, can he change the beneficiary without notifying me. Trying to plan my future if I outlast him. Senior living alone can be financially difficult. Peace of mind! Looking forward to your response.

    1. If the divorce decree or settlement did not specifically say that the life insurance MUST keep you as beneficiary, he can change it. The notarized letter probably served to say at the moment you were but does not guarantee you will be forever. Life insurance companies do allow for irrevocable beneficiaries, you should inquire if this is an option, that way it can not be changed.

  4. My ex and I have not been together since 2012 and all along I was the beneficiary up till a month ago as we have a son age 14, he found out he had stage 4 cancer and we had a disagreement regarding child support so he called Manulife to request to have the paperwork sent to him to have me removed as beneficiary. According to my son this paperwork was not filed and his dad passed away yesterday. I spoke with the executor of his will today which is his 35 year old daughter and she told me because her dad at requested the paperwork that automatically overrides me as beneficiary is this true?

    1. No requesting the paperwork is not the same as filling it out and signing it. I would call the life insurance company directly to see what they say.

  5. My brothers had always believed themselves to be the beneficiaries of my father’s life insurance – that’s what he told them. He was in a motorcycle accident, and died a couple of weeks later. He was living with his new girlfriend at the time, and when he died, they found out she was the beneficiary, not them. I’ve worried that she changed his beneficiary to her using his account information while he was in the hospital. Is there a way we could find out when the beneficiary was changed (particularly without alerting everyone to the concern if it turns out to be unfounded? I’m not looking to start a battle unnecessarily, but I don’t want my brothers to be defrauded.)

    1. Andrew @ LifeAnt

      Hi Beth,
      About the only thing you can do is just call the life insurance company, explain the situation and ask that all you’re trying to find out is whether there is a concern for fraudulent activity. It’s unlikely they will tell you when the beneficiary was changed, but it’s worth trying. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else you can do. Whether she changed it or not, your father (with respect) should have also had a will that specifies who gets what and he should never have given access to his girlfriend for things like life insurance.

      1. Thanks for your response – I appreciate it!

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