Your parents were never big spenders. Despite earning well, they lived in a modest house, drove an old car and preferred to cook at home rather than eat out. When your father died, you tried to tempt your mother to spend some of her money on seeing the world. Yet, she never got further than a trip to Yosemite.

When your mom passed away, you and your brother received equal shares of the house. However, neither of you received a cent of your parents’ considerable funds in their savings account. That all went to a man with who your mom had become friends since your dad died. Your mom apparently made him the beneficiary of the account a few months before she died.

Can people designate anyone as a beneficiary of an account?

When people are married, they often put each other as the beneficiary of their bank accounts to ensure their spouse is provided for when they die. Most would designate their children as primary beneficiaries afterward. Yet, people are free to choose who they want as beneficiaries and can alter them when they wish. 

That does not mean, however, that you may not have reason to mount a challenge over the funds.

What grounds can you contest a beneficiary designation?

There are various grounds for the kinds of actions, including:

  • Undue influence: Sometimes, people develop emotional power over others, which they use to their advantage.
  • Fraud: If your mom had poor eyesight, someone could have told her she was signing something else altogether.
  • Forgery: Maybe the signature is not your mom’s.
  • Mental incapacity: If your mom lived with dementia, she might not have known what she was doing.

You can contest a beneficiary designation if you are a child or spouse of the deceased or were previously a beneficiary. Seek legal help if you feel someone has cheated you out of your inheritance or something doesn’t seem right about an estate.