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Honoring the policy

Life insurance companies are legally obliged to honor the wishes laid out by the policyholder. After you pass away, your life insurance beneficiary cannot be changed and all proceeds will go to the primary beneficiary named or to the contingent beneficiary if the primary is deceased.

It’s possible to dispute or contest a life insurance policy, but doing so often requires a complex legal court process, per insurer Aflac, but this can be very expensive, especially if you do not win your case.

Williams was alerted to this process but feared she could “be out thousands of dollars in attorney fees” if she lost what was already an uphill battle.

The grieving sister had also appealed to the ex-girlfriend’s sensibilities to see if she would fill out a form that Williams’s attorney said allows a primary beneficiary to direct payment to another recipient.

“I wrote her a letter expressing that, while I know they had a deep love, that was over,” Williams told the Daily Mail, adding that she explained the conversation she’d had with her brother regarding his estate before he died.

“I requested she honor his wishes and sign the form. But I never heard anything back. But then I saw about a month later that everything had been cashed out and closed out.”

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Keep on top of your beneficiaries

It’s critically important to keep the beneficiary forms on your life insurance policy, retirement accounts and bank accounts up to date so that, if something happens to you, your assets will be distributed as you wish.

Doing this may help to prevent disputes between family members and friends. As Williams pointed out, the last thing grieving people want is to “fight” over a loved one’s assets — “you just want to grieve and figure out how to heal.”

You can help your loved ones by keeping on top of your financial affairs and having an estate plan and a will in place. Any unknowns, missing information (e.g. no beneficiaries listed) or errors can cause delays with distributing your assets and possibly lead to a lengthy and expensive probate process.

“My heart goes out to anyone having to try and deal with contentious situations, especially when grieving a loved one,” Williams said. “I can't express how important it is to make sure your loved ones know to get things in order.”


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Bethan Moorcraft is a reporter for Moneywise with experience in news editing and business reporting across international markets.


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