This is a question about US law. I realize there might be some differences across states.

Suppose I have a $3 million IRA with my friend Nellie listed as the beneficiary. Nellie is also mentioned in my will, which specifies that she is to receive a $7 million bequest. (Suppose also that my non-retirement assets are more than sufficient to cover this.)

Does Nellie receive the $3 million IRA PLUS $7 million, for a total of $10 million? Or does she receive the $3 million IRA plus $4 million (i.e. $7 million altogether)?

1 Answer 1


Unless there is some affirmative indication in the language of the will that the IRA amount counts against Nellie's inheritance, Nellie receives the $3 million IRA plus $7 million, for a total of $10 million.

A will only governs your "probate estate" and an asset like an IRA with an named beneficiary is not part of your probate estate. It is, instead, a non-probate transfer.

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