How To Name Life Insurance Beneficiaries

The beneficiaries you name in your life insurance policy are the people who will receive the payout from your insurance policy when you die.

Who can be a life insurance beneficiary?

The beneficiaries to a life insurance policy can be:

  • A person or a group of people, such as a family member or multiple family members
  • A trust you’ve established
  • A charity or nonprofit organization
  • Your estate

Be aware that the state you live in or the particular policy you're considering may have restrictions on who can be named as a beneficiary. If you have any question about who you can name as a beneficiary in your state, it's best to consult a local licensed insurance agent.

Contingent beneficiaries

When naming insurance beneficiaries, it's important to name a contingent beneficiary (secondary beneficiary), in case the primary beneficiary is not alive at the time you die. If the primary beneficiary is alive at the time you die, the contingent beneficiary will not receive any benefits. However, if the primary beneficiary has died, the contingent beneficiary will receive the benefits of the policy.

Reviewing beneficiary designations

It’s a good idea to review who you've chosen as beneficiaries every few years, as well as after major life events (births, deaths, marriage, divorce, etc.), in case you want to make changes to the beneficiaries. By reviewing your beneficiary designations you can make sure that the people named as beneficiaries are still the people you'd like to receive any insurance payouts. 

To learn about how to personalize your life insurance policy, see our article Insurance Riders.