How to Contest an IRA Beneficiary

by Kimberlee Leonard ; Updated July 27, 2017

One of the key benefits of an IRA (Individual Retirement Account) is that the owner is able to name a beneficiary on the account. In fact, he can name several, as well as contingent beneficiaries should he outlive the primary beneficiaries. If fraud or coercion has been suspected in the naming of the beneficiaries, you may be able to contest the beneficiary. But you will need solid evidence and proof that the intentions of the deceased were not upheld or that something illegal occurred.

Step 1

Determine your rights. Most states require that a spouse must receive the IRA. A spouse must waive her rights to the assets. If no waiver has been signed, you should contact the IRA trustee with copies of your marriage certificate and a letter stating that there was no waiver signed. If you have questions about the law in your state, consult with a family law attorney.

Step 2

Review the circumstances of the IRA. An IRA beneficiary supersedes the beneficiaries named in a will or trust. If the deceased simply forgot to change the IRA beneficiary to reflect the wishes stated in the trust or will, unfortunately there is no recourse. This is common in second marriages where the ex-spouse was named as a beneficiary and never changed. Forgetfulness is not a reason to overturn a beneficiary designation, but coercion or fraud are.

Step 3

Prove fraud or coercion. If you have evidence that the deceased somehow had been coerced or given fraudulent information that led to the changing of a beneficiary designation, you will need to demonstrate this. A situation like this will most likely involve courts, attorneys and the police. An example of a situation in which you would be able to pursue this is where the IRA benefactor was misled into thinking that his beneficiary was dead by someone seeking his assets. If the deceased had suffered from dementia or was otherwise not in contact with the beneficiary, this also may be a case of fraudulence that could lead to a successful contest. Provide copies of any evidence you have, including letters, phone messages and other witness testimony.


  • Always keep original copies of your evidence safe but have them accessible when in court.


About the Author

With more than 15 years of professional writing experience, Kimberlee finds it fun to take technical mumbo-jumbo and make it fun! Her first career was in financial services and insurance.