Asked by Erin  |  Submitted October 26, 2015

Do I have to name my spouse as my primary beneficiary on my life insurance? Who is eligible to be a beneficiary, if I don't choose my spouse?

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  Answers  |  4

October 27, 2015

You can name anyone, or anything, the beneficiary of your life insurance death benefit.

$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 10.01.20 @ 13:48


December 21, 2015

Hello Erin,

A bit more detail, to follow Benjamin's answer. You, as the Owner of the policy, have the right to name Beneficiaries; I use caps to denote the parties, of which there are 3, including Insured. However, some Beneficiaries can turn out to be problematic for the parties.

A minor (one of your kids, for instance) may be named but when the time comes to receive the benefit, their minor status can cause some issues; legally, minors are not allowed as parties to a contract.

A living human being, believe it or not - when named on your policy - might also be problematic.
Consider that I (the Insured) might be in the car with my wife (my Beneficiary) when that car goes over the cliff. That leaves the question of "where does the money go?" The kids? They were in the car, too. Had I named a non living entity as my Beneficiary, there would be a place for it to go.

Along the same line of thought, many people make spouses their Beneficiary. And, in many cases, there are divorces followed by no change of Beneficiary. Ooops!

My personal favorite is the trust; it takes away the demise of the living Beneficiary issues, the divorce issues, the minor issues, and replaces them with an element of control detailed in a legal document that is as durable as are Articles of Incorporation that are used to form corporations. Updating the trust every year or so keeps pace with life changes. Last item on trusts: the trust can disperse funds on a schedule to whomever I choose, while a life insurance company is simply going to issue a check.


$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 10.01.20 @ 13:48


March 08, 2016

A final note to add to Kirby's answer: A good financial representative or insurance agent is going to meet with you annually to review your coverage and your beneficiaries. Life insurance is not something you purchase, then forget it. It's like any other financial arrangement in that it needs tending.

$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 10.01.20 @ 13:48


April 15, 2016

It may actually depend on what state you live in. In community property states you may need your spouse's permission to list another person as primary beneficiary. I have seen this through a few companies recently. Usually companies look for a relationship or financial obligation for the beneficiary. As insured and owner of a policy, you can change your beneficiary later and carriers usually go along with the change, but it will depend on the company.

$commenter.renderDisplayableName() | 10.01.20 @ 13:48