Probate assets and non-probate assets raise all kinds of questions for people approaching the estate planning process. It can be difficult to figure out which of your assets needs to proceed through the probate process and which could be passed down to your heirs outside of traditional probate.
A life insurance policy is one example of an item that passes outside of probate due to the use of beneficiary forms. Beneficiary forms are used to establish who you would like to receive your assets, when you pass away, from a life insurance policy. This is different from a will, which articulates items of personal property and can even name a guardian for a minor child.
Your life insurance policy will pass to the primary beneficiary or contingent beneficiary after you pass away based on the beneficiary forms you updated and maintained with your own life insurance company. This makes it very important to update all of these materials based on any major changes in your life, such as the birth of a child or grandchild or getting a divorce.
Since your life insurance company will rely entirely on these forms to pass down your assets after you pass away, you need to make sure that you have maintained updated paperwork directly with your life insurance company so that there is no confusion or misapplication of life insurance proceeds when you pass away. Your life insurance policy should be included in your comprehensive estate planning. Make sure you sit down with an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss your options.