Life Insurance

Am I the Beneficiary of a Life Insurance Policy? How to Find Out.

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Even if no one has informed you, there are ways to determine if you're named a life insurance beneficiary on someone else's life insurance policy. It takes a bit of research and persistence, but you can get your questions answered. However, before diving into the strategies to do so, it can help to understand what a life insurance policy beneficiary is to begin with, and who can qualify as one.

Who can you name as a beneficiary on life insurance?

For the most part, life insurance beneficiary rules leave who can change the beneficiary on a life insurance policy up to the policyholder's discretion. There aren't many regulations about who you can list as a beneficiary, except where minors are concerned. You can even name an organization, such as a business or trust, as your beneficiary. Policies also allow you to designate more than one beneficiary and contingent beneficiaries. 

What is a life insurance beneficiary, and who qualifies?

A life insurance beneficiary is someone listed on a policy who will receive the payout if the policyholder passes away. To qualify as a beneficiary, you must be designated by the policyholder. A portion of the policy paperwork is composed of a beneficiaries list. If you're placed on the official list, you'll be designated as a life insurance beneficiary. 

In many cases, the policyholder can change life insurance beneficiaries during the life of the policy. If your policy includes an irrevocable beneficiary, they will need to consent to the change. 

However, suppose the insurer can't locate you to make the benefit payout. In that case, the payout will revert to any contingent beneficiaries. 

What is a contingent beneficiary for life insurance?

A contingent beneficiary receives the policy payout if the primary beneficiary(s) can't be located or died before the insured.

What happens to life insurance with no beneficiary? 

The payout will go to the estate of the policyholder.

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How do you prove you're a beneficiary?

Proving that you're a beneficiary requires two things. You must be listed as a beneficiary within the policy, and you must be able to verify your identity. The policyholder designates the first part. You can prove your identity with a valid driver's license or state I.D. 

How to find out if you're the beneficiary of a life insurance policy

Suppose you weren't notified ahead of time by the policyholder. This difficulty gets compounded because life insurance companies may not be immediately aware if a policyholder passes away (depending on state requirements, an insurer will typically search the death master file for its policyholders at least annually). It's common for beneficiaries to be the ones to inform the insurance company when this happens. That's one reason for unclaimed life insurance benefits

To determine if you're a life insurance beneficiary, you need to find out if someone close to you held a life insurance policy. If they didn't tell anyone, it could involve research through their files and finances. When a loved one passes away, it's a vulnerable and painful time, making it important to always approach this process with gentleness and compassion.

Identify if the person in question had a policy

  • Check their emails for communications or payment confirmations with a life insurance company
  • Look through personal filing systems for documentation of a policy or receipt
  • Use the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) life insurance policy locator service
  • If you're listed on the individual's banking accounts, contact the bank and look for financial records that include a life insurance provider. 

Contact the company that issued the policy

  • Once you've identified a policy, contact the company that issued it and ask them if you're a beneficiary. At this point, you may need to provide proof of identity and state your relationship with the policyholder.

Do life insurance companies notify beneficiaries?

Life insurance companies sometimes notify beneficiaries, but they often have imperfect knowledge. In many cases, life insurance companies may not be aware that a policyholder passes away or may not have current contact information for beneficiaries. In these instances, they're unlikely to reach out to any beneficiaries. 

However, there are life insurance beneficiary rules that insurers must follow. States require insurers to verify that their policyholders are still alive at least once a year, and to make a reasonable effort to locate the beneficiary once they become aware of the policyholder's passing.

I am beneficiary of a life insurance policy. What now?

To file a claim on the policy, you'll need the death certificate of the policyholder, a copy of the policy, and proof of your identity. With these items on hand, contact the insurer, inform them of who you are, and ask to file a claim on the life insurance policy. 

Do beneficiaries pay taxes on life insurance policies?

In many cases, no, life insurance payouts aren't required to be reported and taxed as income.If you're looking for an online life insurance policy of your own, check your rates with a fast, free online quote. Most Ethos insurance applicants qualify for no medical exam life insurance, but answering some medical questions is still required.

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