Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in California

If a change of beneficiary form (for an IRA) was signed and dated by the IRA owner 4 days prior to death (totally of sound mind when signed) , sent in the mail to their financial advisor but not received by financial advisor until one day after death date, is the change of beneficiary legal?

Asked on 6/29/21, 8:22 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Timothy McCormick Haapala, Thompson & Abern, LLP

Generally, absent specific terms to the contrary in a particular transaction, the "mailbox rule" is that an action taken by mail is effective when deposited in the mail. The law school example is where A offers in writing to sell Blackacre to B for $100,000 on Sunday. A mails his acceptance to B on Monday. On Monday afternoon C tells A she will pay $200,000 for Blackacre. Tuesday morning before receiving the acceptance from A, B hand delivers a written rescission of the offer to A. The rescission is too late; A can enforce the contract.

That said, however, there may be specific rules in IRA account documents that differ.

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Answered on 6/30/21, 7:09 pm

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