Is my mother entitled to my deceased father’s stocks andlife insurance policy?

My father passed away recently and before he died he worked for the a corporation. During that time he accumulated hundreds of shares of stock, but they are only in his name. So now that he is deceased, do those shares automatically revert to my mother (they were still married at the time of his death)? Also, he had life insurance through his company, but they never issued him an actual paper policy; it was just part of his pension/retirement package from the company. So how can she collect on that? I believe it was for 250K dollars.  Do we need to speak to a probate lawyer?  In Essex County, MA.

Asked on December 4, 2010 under Estate Planning, Massachusetts


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First of all, as to the insurance policy.  If a valid policy was in effect, you don't need the paper policy to collect.  Your father's former employer should have all the information that is needed.  As long as your mother was named as the beneficiary, she will be able to collect on it.  However, if she was not the named beneficiary, then the proceeds would be payable to whoever was so named.  If your father didn't name a beneficiary or named his estate, then the proceeds would be payable to his estate and distributed accordingly.  If he had a Will, it would pass through the residuary clause; if he had no Will then he died "intestate" and the intestacy laws of the state that he was domiciled in as of the date of his death would control (typically a 2/3-1/3 split between the surviving spouse and children, respectively).

As for his stocks, they are considered personal property and will pass into his estate.  As to who inherits at that point depends on whether there was Will or not (as described above).  However, Will or no Will, due to the dollar amount in question ($250,000), his estate will need to be probated; a probate is opened with the applicable probate court (the county in which your father resided).

At this point, you may want to consult further with a probate law attorney in your area.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.