Beneficiaries, Retirement, Life Insurance, and Probate

Kristen Marks

by Kristen Marks

Kristen Marks is a travel enthusiast, empty-nest mom to two young adult children, athlete, attorney, author, speaker, proud wife of almost three decades (to the same wonderful man!), and the founder of My Pink Lawyer®, Florida Estate & Legacy Planning attorneys. Kristen has been crafting professional estate plans for Floridians and their families for over 28 years.

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Have you ever wondered why sometimes a probate is needed to claim life insurance or retirement accounts after a loved one dies and other times, no probate is needed?

It is very common to name beneficiaries for your life insurance and retirement plans. You do so by using the company provided beneficiary form.

The beneficiary form is an agreement you make with the life insurance company or financial institution that when you die, you want them to pay your named beneficiary the monies in the policy or plan.


The problem is that many people forget to update their beneficiaries, or even name back-up beneficiaries, should their named beneficiary predecease them.

When there is no living beneficiary for a life insurance policy or retirement account, the life insurance company or financial institution will likely require that a probate be opened in order to claim the funds.

This is unfortunate because oftentimes no probate would be needed at all but for the lack of a named beneficiary on a life insurance policy or retirement account.

And of course probate is not without its aggravation. 

Probate is often expensive and time consuming and, in many cases, completely avoidable.

Bottom Line: Make sure that you have both primary & contingent living beneficiaries on file for all of your life insurance policies and retirement accounts at all times.

Failing to keep your beneficiaries current can cost your loved ones thousands of dollars in unnecessary legal expenses to claim their inheritance. 

To learn more about easy ways to avoid probate of your assets after you die, download our free book now.

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