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  • What happens if my beneficiary and I die?
  • December 5, 2013
  • life insurance proceeds when a beneficiary diesBy Regina Waldroup

    You faithfully paid your life insurance premiums for decades, all to make sure your funeral expenses would be paid for and your loved ones would be covered financially.

    But what would happen if you and your policy’s beneficiary both suddenly died? Or, what happens if your beneficiary died shortly after you did? A beneficiary is the person whom you designate to receive your life insurance proceeds when you die.

    Each year, hundreds of millions of dollars in life insurance benefits go unclaimed for various reasons. But there are ways to prevent your death benefits from ending up in state coffers as unclaimed funds or in probate.

    First, according to insurance experts, be sure you have two levels of beneficiaries — a primary and secondary (sometimes called a “contingent”).

    “If the primary beneficiary is not alive when the insured dies, the policy may have a contingent beneficiary,” says Steve Weisbart, chief economist for the Insurance Information Institute.

    Weisbart explained that a primary and contingent beneficiary can be designated when the policy is written.

    “Take me, for instance,” he adds. “I have life insurance and my wife is my primary beneficiary and my two kids are my contingent beneficiaries.”

    It’s important to remember that the contingent beneficiary cannot claim death benefits unless the primary beneficiary dies at the same time or before the insured dies. If the primary beneficiary dies after the insured, the benefit goes to the primary’s estate.

    “If there is no primary or contingent beneficiary, the death benefit is paid to the owner of the life insurance policy, and that may not be the person whose life is insured,” Weisbart says.

    When both the primary and contingent beneficiaries die before the insured, Weisbart says, the life insurance benefits go to the estate of whoever owned the policy, but that could vary by state. provides a list of probate codes and laws in all 50 states.

  • Category: Featured Articles, Life Insurance

One Response

  • Adelia says:

    Nope. There’s no database. You can’t call them and have them look it up. There are thsuoands of companies.The good news is, whoever is filing the claim, won’t know who the beneficiary is until the check shows up at YOUR door, if you’re the beneficiary. The bad news is, unless you’re the executor of the estate, you can’t even get the cancelled checks to see what company he’d been paying for the insurance.Someone else cannot keep you from receiving the money IF you are the beneficiary. The insurance company will mail it to you directly. Someone else doesn’t get to distribute the insurance money.

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