Does Life Insurance Policy Get Split with Estate?

Attorney Thomas B. Burton answers the following question: "Does Life Insurance Policy Get Split with Estate?"


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Welcome back, I'm Attorney Thomas Burton and today, we turn to another question in my popular Question and Answer Series where I answer real reader questions in the State of Wisconsin.


Today's question is the following - "My son and daughter-in-law died. Daughter-in-law had life insurance with my son as beneficiary. Does that policy get split in the estate?"


So first, I'm sorry to hear about the passing of both your son and the daughter-in-law.


If your daughter-in-law named your son as the primary beneficiary then he would receive the proceeds, if he survived her. If she named a contingent beneficiary on the life insurance policy, then that person would receive the asset if your son did not outlive the survival period outlined in the policy.


So you need to look at the actual terms of the policy and see if there is a survival period if it, if it's just one hour or if it's three days, five days. Some policies, some wills for example, will say someone has to survive by 30 days to inherit. So since life insurance is a matter of contract law, you're going to need to check the policy and also determine who died first. Then the policy will pass according to whatever beneficiary your daughter-in-law had on file at the time of her death. If she did not name a beneficiary or a contingent beneficiary, then for most policies, your son's estate, the probate estate would likely meet, be the default beneficiary. So let's say she didn't name any beneficiaries in your son, she didn't name any on the policy then it's likely if your son was married to her at death, his estate would be the beneficiary.


Then once his estate gets the money, it would be distributed according to his will or if he did not have a will then according to the Wisconsin Intestate statutes through the probate court process.


So first you need to check the terms of the actual life insurance policy like I said and determine those things about who died first and if there's a survival-ship period and then get the beneficiary designation on file with the company to see if there was any. Usually if there is one you just have to provide the death certificate and then they pay out to the person named on the beneficiary designation and they may have a form, a death benefits form you fill out with the death certificate.


Again, because insurance is a matter of contract law, it's going to depend on the policy and the actual beneficiary designation filled out and if none of that's filled out, then we would proceed to the probate court process.


So I would work with a good probate attorney if you're having troubles with any of this to, to figure out the timing, who died first, what beneficiary designation if any was filled out and applies and then look at the relevant statutes governing what happens to the money, once it passes to the named beneficiary or if no name beneficiary to the estate of likely your son.


So again, I'm sorry to hear about the passing of both of them. Best of luck to you with this great question and thank you for asking and we'll see you next time.


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