What is a Life Insurance Beneficiary?
A beneficiary is a person who receives the death benefits from a life insurance policy. Proceeds of a life policy are received tax free in the hands of a named beneficiary.
If the beneficiary is a spouse, parent, child or grand child, then they are considered to be the “preferred beneficiary”. If the insured has a preferred beneficiary then the benefit is protected from any creditors.
The “primary” beneficiary is the person who is the first choice to receive the death benefit. You might be able to designate more than one person as a primary beneficiary, dependent on the policy.
A person who will receive the death benefit of a policy if the primary beneficiary dies before or at the same time as the insured is called the “contingent” beneficiary.
For example, should both a husband and wife die in the same accident, the death benefits would by default go to each estate, and creditors could make claims against the estates. However, a child could be the contingent beneficiary, in which case creditors could not make claims against the death benefit.
If the child is a minor, one needs to name an adult as a trustee to receive the funds in trust for the child, since insurers do not pay proceeds to a minor.
Choosing a Beneficiary
The following lists and briefly discusses possible beneficiaries of a life insurance policy. This should only be used as a general guide line, and is for information purposes only. An is always advised to consult a trust and/or an estate attorney in the state that you live in for the laws in your state.
The most common beneficiary of life insurance is ones spouse. This is not only the easiest for paperwork, but more people chose this, probably because most people have not done any form of estate planning as an alternative method prior to selecting this option.
Children can also be beneficiaries of life insurance. If a child is under the age of 21, they will need a trustee to watch / manage the life insurance proceeds until they become of legal age. If they are over the age of 21 they do not require a trustee to watch over the life insurance funds for them. Note: If a trust has not been set up and a person has not been chosen at the time the trust has been set up, the court will appoint a trustee to watch over the funds for the children. The trustee may not always do what your wishes are, that is why a trust and an individual (s) are critical to chose while you are living.
Parents are often designated as beneficiaries of your life insurance, possibly for the given situations:
- You are single with no children, and want protection against your debts, funeral expenses, to leave funds to take care of your parents if they need financial assistance.
- In case both you and your spouse dies, and parents will be taking care of the children and need to have sufficient funds to provide proper care for your children.
Friends can be made the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. This can be common when the insured does not have any immediate family alive.
Charities / Foundation / Church
Charitees can be made the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. This is common when the insured wants to leave money to a charitee / foundation or a church or a foundation that .
The estate can be named as beneficiary, in which case the proceeds are subject to probate fees. Hence named beneficiaries are preferred.