Are insurance proceeds considered to be assets of an estate?

UPDATED: Dec 7, 2011

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Are insurance proceeds considered to be assets of an estate?

My mother died and left a Will simply stating her assets are to be divided 3 ways – to myself, sister and brother. Her only asset is her house or so my sister and I thought. My brother (the executor) has been hiding a $250k annuity that he was listed as the sole beneficiary of by the insurance company. Do my sister and I have a claim to this annuity through the division of assets per her Will or do we have no claim as my brother was the only listed beneficiary with the insurer?

Asked on December 7, 2011 under Estate Planning, New York


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Since your mother had a Will when she died, she is said to have died "testate". As such she was the testator and the terms of her Will control the distribution of the assets of her estate. However, life insurance proceeds are not part of the testaor's estate. In other words, they do not pass through probate. Instead, insurance proceeds pass directly to the named beneficiary, and there is no legal requirement that a parent name all child as a beneficiaries.

At this point you can consult directly with a probate attorney in the area for further information.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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