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A key step in purchasing a life insurance policy is choosing your life insurance beneficiary – the person (or entity) who will receive the cash benefit from your policy after you die.

Who, or what, can be a life insurance beneficiary?

You can name:

  • One, two or more people
  • A trust you've set up, with the proceeds administered by a trustee
  • A charity
  • Your estate

When you designate beneficiaries, you have the final say over who receives your death benefit. If you don't choose one, your state's laws determine who gets it – and who wants to let their loved ones fend for themselves against a state bureaucracy?

Primary beneficiary, secondary beneficiary or more?

Your primary beneficiary is first in line to receive your death benefit. If the primary beneficiary dies before you, a secondary or contingent beneficiary is the next in line. Some people also designate a final beneficiary in the event the primary and secondary beneficiaries die before they do.

How do you choose a life insurance beneficiary?

This is a very personal decision. Some people want to use a death benefit to protect their loved ones, and other people look at it more as a financial transaction.

Who will need extra money when you pass away? Are there people who depend on you for financial support? People who will bear certain expenses at your death? These are the issues to consider when choosing your beneficiary.

Other factors to consider

When naming life insurance beneficiaries, keep these things in mind:

State or policy life insurance beneficiary rules − Your state or the insurance carrier may restrict who you can name as a beneficiary. For example, if you're married, your spouse may have to sign a waiver before you can name someone else as the beneficiary.

Last in line? − Who receives the proceeds if none of your beneficiaries survive you? Should the assets pass to your estate? Or would they be better off in a trust?

Changing beneficiaries

With most policies, you can change your beneficiaries at any time. Review your policies regularly, and don't forget to make appropriate changes when your life changes – like when you get married, have a baby or move your kids out of the house – or back in.

Need help?

You don't have to figure all this out by yourself. Contact your investment professional today to discuss your specific needs.


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