In Knoll v. Banner Life, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district judge's determination regarding an alleged change of beneficiary.
A contestant alleged that the decedent had made a new designation when he allegedly wrote on a payment stub that he wished to change the policy beneficiary. After a bench trial, the judge ruled that the notation was not effective to change the beneficiary. Importantly, the judge found that the notation was not in the handwriting of the decedent, but was actually written by a friend who disliked the existing beneficiary. The judge also found the friend's testimony was not reliable.
This case illustrates that the circumstances of a disputed beneficiary change are extremely fact specific. Under different circumstances, the judge may have found that the writing on the payment stub was effective to change the designation and the court of appeals might have upheld such a decision.
Both Texas and Federal law recognize the doctrine of substantial compliance regarding efforts to change or make a beneficiary designation. Anyone facing such an issue should contact a lawyer experienced in handling life insurance disputes, as soon as possible.