Why am I receiving funds from my mother’s life insurance when my sister should get everything?

Q: My sister is the executor and per the will she is to receive everything yet my name is listed as a 50-50 beneficiary on her retirement and life insurance. Debt on estate is about 100k. There is 160k in IRA account which I signed over my half to my sister. There is10k in life insurance of which I was sent 5k. My sister is asking for $1500 of that for funeral expenses. We are a month and a half into this and now there apparently was another retirement account that I am listed as the sole beneficiary of $37k. Why am I receiving these funds and why aren’t they going to the estate and then my sister as heir? Below is the distribution part of the will. A) I give such items of my tangible personal property as are designated in a separate writing signed by me which refers to this will to the individual (s) named therein who survive me. B) I give the balance of my tangible personal property (or all such tangible property if no writing exists) to my daughter (my sister) if she survives me. If my daughter fails to survive me I give the balance of my tangible personal property to my son (me), if he survives me. (Glenshaw, PA)

A: Normally, if an attorney was handling this estate, your questions would be answered. Generally, some assets such as insurance policies, IRA’s, annuities, etc., have beneficiaries. Upon the death of the owner, the asset passes directly to the named beneficiary. The asset does not go into nor is it part of the estate. These types of assets are considered “non-probate”, as opposed to probate. An example of a “probate” asset would be something held in the decedent’s name at death, with no listed beneficiary. For example, a house with the decedent named on the deed. A car with the decedent named on the title. Beware, you may owe inheritance tax on some of these “non-probate” assets that you are inheriting. If you don’t have an attorney, and your sister is the brains behind this, I strongly suggest that you hire one.