I’m being denied an inheritance. Can they do that?

Q. My friend gave me a CD/IRA and he said he wanted me to have it in case anything happened to him. He is married and didn’t tell his wife about it. She was the beneficiary of plenty of other accounts. He told me to sign a document before he died, and we got it notarized. I took it to the bank to ask about it and they said there was no beneficiary designation given to them before. What should I do?

— Flummoxed

A. It’s a matter of timing and it’s probably too late.

It seems your friend did not submit a written beneficiary change form to the financial institution prior to his death.

If that’s the case, the financial institution is obligated to distribute the CD to the person or entities that otherwise would be entitled to receive it, said Shirley Whitenack, an estate planning attorney with Schenck, Price, Smith & King in Florham Park.

That is, unless you can prove your friend intended you to receive the asset, she said.

“The financial institution does not want to be sued by another party who claims that she is entitled to the CD,” Whitenack said.

She recommends you consult with an attorney who can take a closer look at the specifics of what’s happened.

This article originally appeared on November 18, 2020. 


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