Background: My brother left home many years ago to escape an abusive stepfather, and we never heard from him again.
Fast Forward: Stepfather passes away, mother is now elderly, and sister (myself) has spent 25 years searching for her long-lost brother.
Miracle: Two months ago, we found my brother alive and well and also living in Texas. We had a joyful reunion when he joined us for my mother's 80th birthday. When asked why he didn't stay in touch, he explained that he didn't want to deal with our stepfather and just assumed that mom and I would eventually forget all about him. He was thrilled to learn that we had been searching for him and surprised that our mother was even still alive.
Tragedy: Two weeks after our reunion, my brother died from a brain aneurysm. After our initial shock and grief began to subside, mom and I began the process of wrapping up his affairs and so forth. We've got an attorney assisting us with gaining access to his bank accounts so that we can pay off his debts.
Question: We learned from his employer that he had life insurance and a sizable 401K account, each worth approximately $40,000. Upon meeting with the benefits people, we learned that he had designated a national charity as beneficiary for both accounts, which he was required to reaffirm annually. We are certain that he would have changed his beneficiary designations to our mother's name. There was just no time to do so before he died. The only evidence we have is hearsay from his former coworkers that he was thrilled to be reunited with his family. We feel that we should make a claim as his rightful heirs and should receive those funds. We'd appreciate some opinions from you in this matter. Thank you so much.