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Does a will override a life insurance beneficiary?

Say you bought a life insurance policy 10 years ago. You named one of your children as the beneficiary because the other child was still a minor. You just needed to list someone, and that seemed easiest to you.

Now your other child is no longer a minor. You're writing a will. You decide to note in the will that both children should actually split up the life insurance policy. Will that work?

In short, no, it will not. A will cannot and does not override a life insurance beneficiary designation. The life insurance company is still going to make the complete payout to the child you listed initially. If they want to share it with their sibling is up to them. The other sibling can show the company the will, but they don't need to see it. They already have the beneficiary designation on paper, in a document that is legally binding, and that's all they need.

So, what should you do to make sure your estate plan actually reflects your goals? You need to update the beneficiary designation. For instance, you can change it to list both heirs, or you can change it so that the policy pays out into a trust and the trust then distributes the money to your heirs. There are a lot of options. Just do not assume that writing your will is going to be enough all on its own.

That's not to say that wills aren't useful, but you just need to know their limitations and all of the estate planning options you have.

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