There are a number of assets for which a person can designate a beneficiary outside of a Will. These include RRSPs, RRIFs, insurance and pensions. These designations can be revoked by a Will, but only if the Will specifically addresses that particular asset.
As the value of these assets can be significant, conflicts often arise as to whether the donor intended the asset to devolve to the person or persons designated.
For example, many people mistakenly believe that divorce will automatically revoke a prior beneficiary designation. This is not true - if a new designation is not made, the prior designation stands.
Beneficiary designations can be challenged on the same basis as a Will, such as a lack of capacity or undue influence of the donor.
However, it is not enough to simply claim that the donor intended to change a designated beneficiary, but did not:
“…I think it would be dangerous to allow the search for intention to influence the determination of whether there has or hasn’t been strict compliance with the provisions of the Trustee Act with the requirements. I think the search for intention in that situation would lead to a slippery slope and could cause hardship for issuers, increase the cost of administering RSPs, and ultimately promote litigation since we would be arguing in many cases over what somebody did or didn’t intend, not whether they did or didn’t comply with the strict requirements of the legislation.”
Osborne Estate, Re 2013 CarswellAlta 2969,  A.W.L.D. 4124, 243 A.C.W.S. (3d) 773
If you are the beneficiary of a designated asset and would like further information on your rights, please contact us.
If you are an executor or beneficiary of an estate and would like further information on the recovery of beneficiary designated assets, please contact us.
Initial consultations are free of charge.
For more information, see Perry v. Perry (Estate), 2009 ABQB 687; Morrison Estate (Re), 2015 ABQB 769; Osborne Estate, Re 2013 CarswellAlta 2969,  A.W.L.D. 4124, 243 A.C.W.S. (3d) 773