Call to schedule an appointment or house call

Massachusetts probate process and beneficiary designations

Many people in Massachusetts know to review their estate plan occasionally to be sure that it still conforms with the wishes of the person making out the will. Unfortunately, many people forget to do the same when it comes to beneficiary designations. This can cause problems when it comes to the probate process.

Retirement accounts and insurance policies require a beneficiary to be designated. Since these assets pass without going through probate, it doesn’t matter what changes are made to a will. The beneficiary or beneficiaries designated on these accounts will obtain the assets regardless of the decedent’s wishes if they are not changed independent of any changes to the will and the rest of the estate planning documents.

If a person has been divorced, been at the same job for a number of years or obtained an insurance policy prior to marriage, a review could be in order. Without a periodic review, someone could inherit the proceeds from an insurance policy or retirement account that was never intended to do so years after the initial designation was made. When a person goes to their estate planning professional to have changes made to his or her will is a good time to also review these documents.

The goal of an estate plan is to carry out the last wishes of the person making the plan. Overlooking insurance policies and retirement accounts when changes are made to any estate planning documents could end up complicating the probate process. Regardless of the intentions, designations on those documents will override the will and any other estate planning documents. Therefore, it may be beneficial for Massachusetts residents to keep a list of their beneficiary designations in order to periodically review them.

Source:, To Your Wealth: When a will doesn’t matter, Justus Morgan, Sept. 5, 2013


FindLaw Network