How to Change a Life Insurance Beneficiary

There are many factors that can lead to a person wanting to change his or her life insurance beneficiary. Marriage, divorce or the death of the beneficiary are just three common reasons that people seek to change their life insurance beneficiaries. Most of the time changing a life insurance beneficiary is a simple, yet formal, procedure that can easily be accomplished as long as the life insurance holder follows certain formalities. Sometimes, however, changing a life insurance beneficiary can be more complicated. It is equally important in both simple and complicated cases to follow the rules set forth by state law and your insurance company to make sure that your change of beneficiary is properly implemented and in place should anything happen to you.
General Provisions to Change Life Insurance Beneficiaries
The first thing that you should do if you want to change life insurance beneficiaries is to contact your life insurance company. Life insurance companies generally have standard documents that they want you to use to change your beneficiary. In addition to information about your policy, the change of beneficiary from will typically ask for the new beneficiary’s name, social security number, address and relationship to you. If you intend to divide the life insurance proceeds among two or more beneficiaries then the form will also ask you for the percentage of the proceeds you want provided to each beneficiary. The form typically must be witnessed by two people who are not named as beneficiaries.
Special Considerations
While the general provisions to change a life insurance beneficiary are applicable in most situations, there are certain situations when you, as the policy holder, many not legally change the beneficiary. Those situations include situations where:
  • you named an irrevocable life insurance beneficiary on your policy. Since the naming of the original beneficiary was irrevocable, you as the policy holder cannot change it without that beneficiary’s consent;
  • you have gotten a divorce and the judge has ordered you to keep your ex-spouse as the beneficiary on your life insurance policy as part of the divorce settlement; or
  • you are changing the beneficiary in contradiction of a court order or in a manner that violates the law.
The above situations notwithstanding, in most cases you can change your life insurance beneficiary if you so desire. However, it is important to remember that your life insurance policy is just that – an insurance policy.  You must change your beneficiary according to the requirements set forth by your insurance company. While the policy is redeemable when you die, it is not part of your estate. Therefore, you cannot make changes to your policy in your will or in any document other than that which is approved by your insurance company. If you are legally able to change your beneficiary and you follow the requirements set forth by you insurance policy then changing your life insurance beneficiary is a relatively easy thing to do.
Many of us maintain life insurance policies to provide financial protection to our families when we die. It is, therefore, very important that the right beneficiaries be named so that our plan of financial protection can be implemented.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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