Who Should Be Your Life Insurance Beneficiaries

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What are the biggest mistakes people make with life insurance?

While delaying the purchase of a life insurance policy and buying too little coverage are very common errors, there’s another area in which consumers all too often make mistakes: choosing their insurance beneficiary. It might seem like a pretty straightforward decision (you pick your closest loved one, right?), but making the wrong choice now can create problems for the people you leave behind. Experts suggest you avoid the following blunders.

Don’t choose a minor. Life insurance companies are unable to pay the proceeds of your policy to anyone under the age of 18. Instead, set up a trust as the beneficiary of the policy or name a trusted adult as the custodian of your life insurance benefits. Your estate attorney can provide you with further insight into this process.

Don’t choose a disabled or special needs dependent. If you name someone as your beneficiary who relies on Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid, you may disqualify them from receiving those benefits under federal law. Instead, set up a trust and name it as the beneficiary. Appoint a trustee to manage the money for your disabled or special needs dependent’s benefit.

Don’t name only a primary beneficiary. Many people name their spouse as their primary beneficiary and neglect naming a secondary. But what happens if you’re in an accident and die at the same time? Advisors often recommend naming secondary and final beneficiaries to ensure your insurance benefits go where you intend without languishing in probate or becoming vulnerable to creditors.

Don’t choose someone you don’t actually want to inherit your death benefit. Some consumers make the mistake of believing their will can override their life insurance policy. As such, they may fail to update the beneficiary when their circumstances change. However, regardless of what a will says, insurance companies always pay to the listed beneficiary—even if it’s your ex-spouse.

Don’t be vague in your selection. It might seem like common sense, but some consumers don’t realize they need to be specific when naming their life insurance beneficiary. Instead of noting “my wife,” or “my granddaughter” or “my children,” on the policy, include a full name (or names), social security numbers and—whenever possible—current addresses. If you’ve named multiple beneficiaries, you much also state how you’d like the money divided.

Don’t keep your beneficiary in the dark. If no one knows you have a life insurance policy, how will anyone know what to do to claim the benefit after your death? Make sure at least one person in your family knows where you keep the policy document, who you have named as the beneficiary, and what to do to start the claims process after you’ve passed on.

If you’d like to discuss the finer details of choosing a life insurance policy beneficiary, please contact us. We’re always here to help with all of your life insurance needs.