Updating the beneficiary on a life insurance policy

There are two types of beneficiaries.

  1. The primary beneficiary receives policy proceeds upon your death. Specify how the benefit should be split (by percent) if you have multiple primary beneficiaries. Also consider if you want benefits divided per stirpes or per capita in case one of the primary beneficiaries passes before you do. Money is split within the family branch in per stirpes. Per capita divides benefits equally among eligible individuals.
  2. You can also name a contingent, or secondary beneficiary. This person receives policy proceeds only if the primary beneficiary passes before you do.

Beneficiaries can be revocable or irrevocable. Find out which one applies to your policy benefits as this affects the update process.

  1. You can change a revocable beneficiary without notifying the individual.
  2. An irrevocable beneficiary cannot be changed without the individual's signed consent.

Request a change of beneficiary form from the life insurance agent or company. It will likely ask for the new beneficiary's full name, address, birthdate, relationship to you, phone number, social security number and percent he/she should get. Are you changing the beneficiary to a trust? Be prepared to provide the trust's name, address, tax identification number, date opened and type of trust.

Get legal advice if the new beneficiary is a minor or individual receiving income-based government benefits. Life insurance proceeds may impact their status or have ta implications.

Finally, talk to your beneficiary. Make him/her aware of the policy, the benefits to be paid and where to find the life insurance contract when you pass.