What Happens When There is no Life Insurance Beneficiary

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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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Written by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Oct 3, 2012

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We are missing the statement of beneficiary from my father’s life insurance policy. As a consequence, the insurance company wants to pay the benefits to my father’s estate. Is it not the responsibility of the insurance company to make sure that beneficiaries are designated for the policies they sell?

Assuming you are talking about individual insurance that the deceased paid for himself, many insureds fail to name beneficiaries for their insurance policies. And if one names no beneficiary, or the named beneficiary dies and there is no “contingent beneficiary” named, the insurance company pays the estate.

Often the application itself asks the insured to name the beneficiary right on it, and on individual policies a copy of the application itself is regularly bound into the policy. That may name the beneficiary for you. In the old days any changes required the policy to be returned to the company and a new beneficary endorsement to be typed onto it or attached.

If the company has a record of receiving a request for a changed policy beneficiary, but can’t find any new designation, then there is sloppiness.

If it is group insurance plan, often the employer who provides the insurance does its own administration and it holds the designations.

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