Assets And Wills

When making your will, you may be wondering if all of your assets will pass under it. Only property included in your “probate estate” will pass under the terms of your will. Many valuable assets – including life insurance, pension benefits, property you own in joint tenancy with someone else, and property you have placed in a “living trust” – will not be controlled by the terms of your will.

Life insurance

“My father died and his will leaves everything to me, but there is a life insurance policy which names my brother as beneficiary. Dad has not gotten along with my brother for years and I am sure he wanted me to get the life insurance proceeds under the will. Who will get the proceeds?”

Your brother because the person named beneficiary under the policy gets the proceeds. This is true in most states even when the will attempts to expressly change the beneficiary. If your dad wanted to change the beneficiary of the life insurance policy, he had to contact the insurance company and fill out the proper forms.

Here’s the lesson: do not attempt to change the beneficiary of life insurance by will.

Pension benefits

Any death benefit payable under your pension plan will be controlled by the beneficiary designation you completed. If you want to change the person you named as beneficiary, contact your employer. Do not try to change the beneficiary by your will. Keep in mind that under federal law, you must leave a portion of your pension benefits to your surviving spouse.

Therefore, if you got married after making your beneficiary designation, your surviving spouse will by law be entitled to share in your pension benefits. But to fully protect your surviving spouse, you should contact your employer soon after you marry and review your beneficiary designation.


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