Does life insurance go through probate?

Life insurance does not go through probate and is not a probate asset in most cases. However, if a life insurance policy doesn't properly designate a beneficiary, then it may have to go through probate. Probate proceedings can be long and tedious, so identifying your beneficiary can ensure the death benefit is released quickly.

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Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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The Rundown

  • Probate is a legal process where the will of a deceased’s property owner is evaluated to settle debts and ensure their beneficiaries are cared for by their estate
  • Life insurance is not typically a probate asset, but some circumstances may require it to go through probate
  • The easiest way to avoid life insurance going through probate is to identify the beneficiary of the life insurance policy

Does life insurance go through probate? In most cases, no. However, some circumstances may require life insurance to go through probate. It is important to ensure that your life insurance policy provides timely payouts to your beneficiaries.

The primary purpose of a life insurance policy is to ensure that in the event of the individual’s death, their dependents or beneficiaries will have immediate access to resources.

Therefore, the life insurance policy serves to continue, in some way, the deceased’s role in the beneficiary’s life.

Before learning more about if life insurance goes through probate, enter your ZIP code into our free quote comparison tool above to find quotes near you.

Does life insurance go through probate?

Does life insurance avoid probate? The probate process takes time and might go against the purpose of a life insurance policy.

Therefore, life insurance payouts go directly to the intended beneficiary, identified by the deceased at the time of purchasing the policy.

Is life insurance a probate asset? Life insurance is separate from probate assets, meaning it will not go through the probate process unless the beneficiary is questionable.

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What is probate?

Probate is a legal proceeding to determine the ownership of the deceased’s property and how it passes from the deceased to their heirs.

Probate issues may arise after the insured’s life comes to an end. Probate normally takes time, and this goes against the very basis of life insurance coverage.

Is life insurance part of an estate after death? Life insurance policies are typically not a major part of probate because the policyholder purchases a policy with the express understanding that the death benefit will go directly to a specific beneficiary.

Since a life insurance policy is a form of closed will with an identifiable beneficiary, there is usually no question of who receives the death benefit.

What circumstances may force a life insurance settlement to go through probate?

Certain circumstances may force a life insurance settlement to go through probate, and these are:

  • Where the intended beneficiary dies
  • Where the insured does not expressly name a beneficiary
  • Where the insured lists the beneficiary as the entirety of their estate
  • Where the policyholder intends for the life insurance to pay their estate’s debt

If the beneficiary can be questioned in any way, the death benefit is likely to go through probate. Fortunately, some of the best insurance companies make it easy to identify your beneficiaries and avoid probate.

How can you avoid life insurance going through probate?

To make sure your life insurance does not go through probate, you must expressly determine who the beneficiary or beneficiaries of the policy are.

You should also ensure that the policy does not cover any debts accrued by the time of your passing.

By simply identifying the intended beneficiary, the policyholder will ensure the payout is timely.

Now that you have learned about the probate process and life insurance, it is important to choose a life insurance policy with a company that will understand your needs and concerns.

Now that you know more about if life insurance goes through probate, enter your ZIP code below to use our free quote comparison tool and find an insurance company near you.

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