Since you mention solicitors, I presume you mean under English Law. For a beneficiary to be named under a life policy, it needs to be subject to a trust. That could be a simple trust for wife or children under the Married Women's Property Act 1882, or a more complicated one. The proceeds do not form part of the estate, but the premiums paid in the 7 years before death can be liable to inheritance tax unless they are exempt for some reason. If the estate is small, you may be able to get advice from the insurance company claims department, or from an Independent Financial Adviser if they recommended the policy. If it's large enough to attract inheritance tax, you need a solicitor.