What can I do to collect my fathers life insurance policy if my step-mother is preventing it? How? 11 Answers as of July 14, 2015

My Father was in the military, due to his training he got brain cancer, he died in April 2012 - I was 18. When he was diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer in 2010 he had a will drawn up that stated (per my Nana-his mother, she read his will) upon my 21st birthday I was to receive 1/4 of his military life insurance. There were 2 other non-military life insurance policies and I did receive my 1/4 of these policies shortly after his death per his wishes listed in his will. I have asked my step mother for a copy of his will a number of times but she refuses to give me a one. And now that I am 21 I'm not sure what to do. The military says that I was not named as a beneficiary on his actual policy and that all his life insurance was released to her back in 2012. She was named his beneficiary upon them getting married back in 2002, I'm not sure he knew he had to change this because once he got sick my stepmother took care of a lot of his personal business - for all I know he was never made aware. I have done my best to maintained a relationship with my step mother and my step-siblings since my fathers death and she has stated that she does have an account with "my portion" of what my father wanted me to have, however, now she will not release it to me and claims that my father only wanted it to be used for my education... I don't know this for sure because she won't give me a copy of his will. My problem with this is that the military is paying for my education and will continue to pay for it as long as I'm in school and maintain passing grades - which I do. My father knew that the military would be paying for my education before his death... She says she has this money and will give it to me when needed for my education but I am having to pay for my own books. What are my legal options? I don't even know where to begin or even if I can do anything to get what my father wanted me to have. I am a full time student and work part time and don't have a lot of mo

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Goldsmith & Guymon
Goldsmith & Guymon | Dara Goldsmith
I am sorry to hear of your troubles. If the policy had a named beneficiary, other than you of the estate, that overrides your father's Will. If the facts are as you present them, then it is merely your step-mother's good graces what will result in you receiving any monies from the proceeds.
Answer Applies to: Nevada
Replied: 7/14/2015
S. Joseph Schramm | Joseph Schramm
A will controls only the disposition of assets in a person's name alone at the time of their passing. It does not include other types of ownership such as property held as husband and wife or property held in joint tenancy with another (e.g. joint bank accounts). Neither will it control the disposition of other investment vehicles such as life insurance policies, I.R.A.s and 401-Ks that designate a beneficiary who will receive the funds upon death. In your case it appears that your father designated your step-mother as the beneficiary of life insurance policy. Consequently, the company would have paid the proceeds of the policy to her and she spend or invest them as she wished, regardless of the stated intent of the will.
Answer Applies to: Pennsylvania
Replied: 7/9/2015
Ronald K. Nims LLC | Ronald K. Nims
If your step mother was the beneficiary of your father's life insurance, then the money is hers to do use as she wishes. ?His will doesn't control life insurance proceeds
Answer Applies to: Ohio
Replied: 7/9/2015
Law Ofices of Edwin K. Niles | Edwin K. Niles
As far as the insurance is concerned, the beneficiary designation trumps the will. If step-mom helps with your education, count your blessings.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 7/9/2015
Sebby Law Office
Sebby Law Office | Jayne Sebby
Your father's will should be on file with the clerk's office of the probate court in the county your father lived in when he passed away. You can request to see the file and read the will there. Perhaps your stepmother will reimburse you if you provide her with receipts for your books and other school expenses you are covering yourself. Or she may realize that your chosen profession will require an advanced degree or additional training that the military won't cover and is reserving the money for that.
Answer Applies to: Nebraska
Replied: 7/9/2015
    Gates' Law, PLLC | Thomas E. Gates
    There is nothing you can do. The life insurance policies pass probate. Probate governs the distribution of assets in his estate. The life insurance property was not in his estate, hence, anything he wrote in the will concerning these funds has no meaning. If you want to see the will check with the local court clerk for a copy. However, it will not change your situation.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 7/8/2015
    Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC
    Musilli Brennan Associates PLLC | John F Brennan
    See an attorney with the details, but if you are not, according to the Army, a beneficiary on the policy and had not been since 2002 it is quite probable that any sharing of the proceeds of the Army life insurance policy by the named beneficiary, your stepmother, would have to be strictly voluntary and not actually legally enforceable. I would have to have significantly more details before I would be willing to render a firm opinion.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 7/8/2015
    Ashcraft & Ashcraft, Ltd.
    Ashcraft & Ashcraft, Ltd. | Randall C. Romei
    If your father had a Will it should have been filed with the Clerk of the Court in the County where he resided within 30 days of his death, per Illinois Statute. It should be a matter of public record. Failure to file the will can be a criminal offense though rarely prosecuted. You can force the person holding the will to file it and you are entitled to a copy. The proceeds of a life insurance policy are to be paid directly to the named beneficiary and pass outside of the directions in a will unless the policy benefits are to be paid to the estate of the deceased. It is possible for you to open a probate of your father's estate, under the supervision of a court, and use the probate to discover what happened to your father's assets.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 7/8/2015
    Law Office Of Victor Waid
    Law Office Of Victor Waid | Victor Waid
    You are advised to seek the assistance of a probate/trust litigation lawyer; your issues are serious and need to be addressed by a hands on person.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 7/8/2015
    O'Keefe Legal Services, L.L.C.
    O'Keefe Legal Services, L.L.C. | Sean P. O'Keefe
    In Maryland, the person(s) designated as beneficiary(ies) on a life insurance policy should have priority to receive the proceeds over someone designated to receive under the Will. Though you may not like the answer, it sounds like the life insurance company acted properly in distributing the life insurance benefits to the designated beneficiary (your stepmother), and not to you. Wills are filed for administration ("probate") after one dies, and are a public record, so you should be able to obtain a copy of the Will from the Register of Wills office in the appropriate county.
    Answer Applies to: Maryland
    Replied: 7/8/2015
    Wellerstein Law Group, P.C.
    Wellerstein Law Group, P.C. | Elisha Wellerstein
    A will and life insurance contract are two very separate things. The beneficiary designation on the Life Insurance Policy supercedes anything written in the will. If the your stepmother was listed as beneficiary, then she is the beneficiary. If you were listed as a 1/4 beneficiary on the insurance beneficiary designation form, then it is rightfully your. Sometimes, people designate their Estate to be the beneficiary. If that is the case, then the Will would control how the money is divided and who is the rightful beneficiary. If you feel your father's estate has assets that are rightfully your, and your stepmother will no release the will to you or take the will to be probated, then you should start and proceeding in Surrogates Court to Administer your father's estate. Speak with an attorney or go to the self-help desk at the court.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 7/8/2015
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