Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Sep 15, 2020

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Generally, a policy has a beneficiary and a contingent beneficiary. The money would go to the beneficiary in the event of the death of the insured. But, if the first beneficiary had already died, the contingent beneficiary would receive the proceeds.

But more complicated arrangements are possible. Either the first beneficiary or the contingent beneficiary could, in fact, be more than one person. For example, the first beneficiary could be several siblings and the contingent beneficiary could be a number of nieces and nephews. Also, it is possible to assign percentages to each of the beneficiaries or contingent beneficiaries (for example, 25% to Peter, 50% to Joan and 25% to Sam) as long as the percentages total 100%.

You could also make your estate the beneficiary, although this is not usually desirable because of possible adverse tax consequences.