What happens when a beneficiary of a life insurance policy predeceases the owner of the policy?

UPDATED: Dec 18, 2013

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What happens when a beneficiary of a life insurance policy predeceases the owner of the policy?

My father was a beneficiary of a life insurance policy of my aunt. He passed away 15 years ago; my aunt passed away 6 years ago. She never changed the beneficiary. I was contacted by the insurance company for proof of my father’s death and W-9 documents to fill out. Does this insurance policy become my father’s estate or does it go to the estate of the insured (my aunt)?

Asked on December 18, 2013 under Insurance Law, New York


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

If you are the primary beneficiary and you die before the insured, the insurance goes to the named secondary beneficiary on the policy. If there is no secondary beneficiary, the proceeds lapse and it may go through either the probate estate or to no one. Check the policy for specifics on succession.

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