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If a discrepancy between a last will & testament and a life insurance policy exists, which takes priority?

Grandy, NC |

My will lists my beneficiary as my daughter and my son. My life insurance policy and IRA lists both my son & daughter, also. I am considering changing the beneficiary in my to JUST my daughter. In my will if I bequeath all my property, cash, and OTHER ASSETS to ONLY my daughter, would the will determine that my daughter would inherit everything, even though the life insurance policy states otherwise?

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Attorney answers 4


A life insurance policy (or an IRA) are not part of the "probate" estate and are not automatically governed directly by your Will - instead it is a contract with the insurance company to pay a death benefit to whoever you have named as the designated beneficiary (on forms provided for that purpose by the insurance company). At death, they write checks directly to whoever you list (both son and daughter as you state above).

If you do not name a beneficiary, the benefit is paid to your probate estate - and therefore goes to whomever you stated in your Will because you didn't direct who gets it and it is now part of the probate estate.

If you do not wish for your son to receive from life insurance or an IRA, you must take steps to change the beneficiary of any (or all) such accounts. (If you intend to completely disinherit him for some reason, you should get legal advice on how to avoid a will contest.)

Be sure to consult with an NC attorney to help you revise your Will or to look at the beneficiary designations on your policy to make sure they reflect your current wishes.


If the life insurance policy has a named beneficiary then the proceeds from that will pass to the named beneficiary. The life insurance is not part of the probate estate.


Just agreeing with the other two attorneys here. The life insurance policy is considered a contract, and has attached to it a beneficiary designation form. As such, it passes outside of the probate estate/will.


The life insurance policy and the IRA beneficiary designations will take priority over the will. If you change the beneficiary exclusively to your daughter she will receive all of the life insurance. If you bequeath everything in the will to your daughter she will receive that also.

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