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Wills do not supersede policy beneficiary nominations

By April 17, 2013May 24th, 201817 Comments

The importance of revising the nominated beneficiaries on policies, retirement funds and your Will on a regular basis cannot be underestimated. These are your last wishes to your loved ones who are often people who are dependent on your income and support. It is vital to understand that a Will does not supersede beneficiary nominations on policies and retirement funds.


The best way to highlight the implications and complications of not revising your wishes on a regular basis is by the following example:

Mr and Mrs X were married and had three children. After 15 years they decided to divorce. Mrs X revised her Will to stipulate all her assets were to be left in trust to provide for her three children. She never revised her retirement fund and life policy beneficiary nominations which still reflected Mr X, her now ex-husband, as the nominated beneficiary. Mrs X assumed her wishes in her Will would supersede any other beneficiary nominations.

Mrs X remarried a few years later and had another child with her new husband, Mr Y.

In the event of her death:

Her life policy proceeds will be paid out to her ex-husband Mr X who is now happily remarried and not a dependent of Mrs X.

Her retirement fund proceeds will be allocated to those who are currently her dependants; in all instances the trustees of a retirement fund have the authority to override the nominated beneficiaries.  In this instance her new husband, all four of her children and other dependants such as elderly parents will be taken into consideration for the proceeds of the retirement fund.

Her Will stipulates that a trust should be created to provide for her three children from her first marriage only. The fourth child or guardian of the fourth child can lay a claim against her estate for maintenance; so can any other dependants.

Should Mrs X neglect to have or elect not to have a Will and also not to nominate beneficiaries on her policies and retirement funds, theresult will be:

  • All her assets, besides the retirement funds, will be allocated to her estate and all dependants will be taken into account for the distribution of the said assets. The benefits accruing to minor beneficiaries will vest in the Guardians Fund of the Master of the High Court, which may lead to administrative pitfalls.
  • The trustees of the retirement funds have one year in which to find all dependants and will distribute the assets proportionately.

This option is not advisable as it is extremely time-consuming, costly and very traumatic for family and loved ones.

To avoid any emotional family feuds, additional costs and delays in providing for those you care for, it is crucial to revise all your policies, retirement funds and your Will regularly.

For assistance with drafting or revising your Will, please contact Personal Trust directly.


  • Maureen Joubert says:

    I wish to enquire whether now in 2015 can a Life Insurance Policy be superseded by a Will.

    If a Will is submitted to the High Court for validity (Will was not witnessed) would a Beneficiary be entitled to proceeds of Policy or would the deceased’s wishes that the Beneficiary receive 50% of proceeds if Will validated?

  • Marilynh says:

    Dear Maureen

    Personal Trust has responded as follows:

    “The proceeds of a Life Assurance Policy will be paid outside of the Estate, irrespective of the validity of a Will, if a beneficiary has been duly nominated with the Life Insurance Company. Where there is no beneficiary nomination with the company on record, the proceeds will flow to the Estate and will be distributed in terms of the Will.”

    Kind regards
    Marilyn, YEI Editor

  • connie says:

    In a matter of the deceased not having a will and has a life cover with beneficiaries . Is it only the nominated beneficiaries who will be paid out or can others (children not nominated) claim

    • Marilynh says:

      Dear Connie

      Your query has been sent on to Personal Trust for response.

      Kind regards
      Marilyn, YEI Editor

    • Marilynh says:

      Dear Connie

      Personal Trust has responded as follows:

      The proceeds of a life assurance policy will be paid out to the persons nominated in terms of the beneficiary nomination with the life assurance company, irrespective of the existence or non-existence of a valid Will. Since the proceeds will not form part of the deceased’s Estate, his intestate heirs will not have a claim against it.

      Kind regards
      Marilyn, YEI Editor

  • Amaru Tezu says:

    Thanks for all the helpful info. Can you please supply me with the titles of the legislation that confirm that a will does not override a life policy.

    • Marilynh says:

      Dear Amaru
      Personal Trust has replied to your query. The Long Term Insurance Act deals with all the rules and regulations pertaining to Life Policies.

      Kind regards
      You’ve Earned It

  • Lebogang says:

    My mother was divorced then remarried, on her policies n pension trust she left a nomination form which does not include her new husband, now the husband is claiming to more dependent on her, but because all her nominated children are financially independent then the trust want to give him 100% of the claim, is that fair considering that even during the funeral he took a back sit n now he wants to claim all my mom finances for him n his kids who are having their mother and all biological kids are nominated but not given nothing

  • Matthews says:

    Good day

    Regarding the insurable interest, is there a minimum amount of money a beneficiary can get if he/she is a nominated beneficiary for various life policies, by various people?

    Secondly if a person is nominated by one person for various policies, regarding insurable interest how is the portioned of benefit paid by a particular insurance company determined?

  • Marselle says:

    Good day id like to find out if someone left you as sole beneficiary to all of the stuff and u find out that you were the step daughter not knowing that. And the here ther is another child older than you marride. What right does she have to the financial payouts.

  • Dorette says:

    Good day, my friend passed away and left a life policy, beneficiary only states “Trust”. Apparently his intention was to leave this for his children, who were still minors when policy was taken out. This trust was never established. Children are now both majors, and his last will stated that his wife inherits everything. The insurance company is now insisting that a trust be formed before they will pay out the life policy. According to the executor and a trust company, if an inter vivos Trust did not exist at time of death, then the policy should be paid to the estate. And even if a Trust did exist it would be difficult for the insurance company to prove that the description “Trust” refers to this specific trust. In terms of the will a Trust cannot be established and all parties agree that the policy should be paid to the estate as if no beneficiary was nominated. What do you suggest can be done to resolve this?

  • Inga says:

    I am married woman,my hubsband divorced in 2015, my worry now is that what would happen if he dies,let’s say he didn’t cancel her in his pensions,retirement and etc.We married civil marriage.

    • Marilynh says:

      We will contact Proactive Wills and Estates for their comment and ask them to contact you. Angela(YEI staffer)

    • Angela Watkins says:

      Our expert replies “This is more a legal question, and it would be best to contact an attorney.There is often mention made of the pension arrangement in a Divorce Order and it may be a good idea for the attorney to have a look at that. I know that you can nominate beneficiaries to your Retirement Annuities, but the Company makes the final decision and they will look at who is dependant on the deceased.”
      Hope this helps

  • Allen McDuling says:

    My wife, son and myself have life policies, i am the beneficiary for both of them, so last surviving will inherit, now if it happens that we all 3 pass at same time, would i then have to have a will for this, as were would the money then go ?

  • Henriette Marais says:

    Hi in our divorce agreement my daughter’s study policy was noted for the exclusive use for her studies and any money left over is for her own use as she sees fit. My ex husband had control over the policy, he died 2weeks ago and has made a will that all his assets should be put in a trust, he made provision for her studies, but also that any money left over has to remain in the trust till she is 30yrs old and must then be divided equally between her and a daughter from his previous marriage. Can a will override a high court order, in my opinion that study policy should not be part of the trust and she does not have to wait another 11yrs to access any remaining funds, she is 19now. Can you help me please

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