Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Pennsylvania

Can a will override the beneficiary of an insurance policy? The will states "...and other purely personal effects, as well as household furnishings and equipment which I may own, including any policies of insurance thereon to my son (named)..." The life insurance policy beneficiary and the designated son listed in the will are different. The son listed in the will is claiming that he is entitled to the life insurance policy per the will. Does the will trump the life insurance policy?

Asked on 7/09/13, 10:31 am

3 Answers from Attorneys

Miriam Jacobson Law Offices of Miriam N. Jacobson

No. The life insurance is a contract, and not part of your estate. You may change the beneficiary, but only by following the procedures and notices required by the life insurance company. The insurance policies the will refers to are insurance on the contents of your home and other such person effects. So, if you have insured art work, antique furniture and similar items, your son inherits those as well as any insurance on those items.


* If the answers to your question confirm that you have a valid issue or worthwhile claim, your next step should almost always be to establish a dialog with a lawyer who can provide specific advice to you. Contact a lawyer in your county or township.

* Another reason for contacting a lawyer is that it is often impossible to give a good answer in the Internet Q&A format without having more information. The unique circumstances of your situation and things that you may not have thought to mention in your question may completely change the answer. If you want to be sure that you have a complete answer to your question and an understanding of what that answer means, establish a connection with a lawyer who practices in the area of your concern.

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Answered on 7/09/13, 10:38 am

Glenn Brown Real World Law, P.C.

In a word NO, unless some unusual circumstance, none of which come to mind.

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Answered on 7/09/13, 10:56 am

No as noted by my colleagues for most cases. The beneficiary listed on the form is controlling as between the insurer and any beneficiary. Has the money been paid out yet? When was the beneficiary on the form designated? I can envision a scenario where the named beneficiary induced the owner of the policy to name them as a beneficiary. If that kind of misconduct occurred, there would be a slim chance that the beneficiary designation was improper. That does not mean that you get the money outright. If the money is still held by the insurance company you might be able to persuade them to pay it into court and then bring a lawsuit against the name beneficiary and seek to impose a constructive trust over the money. More likely though the money is paid out or the insurer intends to pay it out. In such case you can still sue and file for a constructive trust and get a restraining order preventing the beneficiary from spending the money. All of this requires a lawyer because it is sophisticated stuff. And you have to have a very strong case that the beneficiary was named because of fraud or some other misconduct (I have seen a handful of cases where this occurred). If these are not your facts then you may not be able to do anything.

This is a very useful site but its not a substitute for taking everything to a lawyer and paying the attorney to review. In this case, I would start with a local probate lawyer who practices in the county where the estate is being probated and have him/her review the will and insurance policy including the beneficiary designation form.

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Answered on 7/09/13, 9:13 pm

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