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Is life insurance subject to probate administration?

The discussion of how an estate should be divided among heirs can be a tricky one. While some individuals leave very specific instructions as to who will receive what, others are not as thorough. One aspect of an estate that may not be spelled out in a will or trust includes beneficiaries on life insurance policies. In such cases, Florida residents would benefit from knowing how life insurance is affected by the probate administration process.

First off, what is probate administration? This is typically referred to as a period of time in which a will or existence of a will is verified. Any heirs or beneficiaries listed in a will are also authenticated. After such verification, the executor of the estate can proceed with closing out the estate and dividing assets as stated in the will, or according to a probate judge. If no will exists, the process of dividing assets can take significantly longer, depending on the size of the estate.

In some instances, life insurance can be exempt from the probate process. To be more specific, a life insurance policy that lists a beneficiary directly on the policy can be paid out almost immediately. Information regarding that beneficiary can be kept from the estate, so other heirs cannot contest the payout. If, however, the beneficiary on the policy is simply listed as the estate, any payable benefits will be subject to the probate process.

Florida residents, in the midst of planning their final estate, may find it a huge benefit for their heirs to be as specific as possible when it comes to determining how assets are to be divided, and listing beneficiaries directly to life insurance policies to ensure proper payout. This can help prevent any unnecessary contention between relatives during probate administration. It is also a great way to ensure final wishes are carried out as desired.

Source:, "How the probate process affects life insurance", J. Brendan Ryan, May 9, 2014

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