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

Answers:

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.


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