Important tips, do’s and don’ts for naming beneficiaries

Do you know the risks of naming a minor as a beneficiary? Or what happens if you don't name a beneficiary at all? Learn those things and more below.

Understanding beneficiaries infographic. Refer to text on screen for accessibility.

Text representation of infographic (for screen reader accessibility):

In life insurance, a beneficiary is a person/people or entity (such as a trust, charity, etc.) that receives the death benefit payment when an insured person passes away. 

In 2018, over $77 billion was paid out in life insurance claims in the U.S. 1

First choice. Your primary beneficiary can be one person or multiple people. They are first in line to receive this death benefit. The percentage interests of all primary beneficiaries must add up to 100%.

Second choice. Your contingent beneficiary/beneficiaries will receive the death benefit if the primary beneficiary/beneficiaries can’t be found. The percentage interests of all contingent beneficiaries must add up to 100%. 

None of the above. In most cases, if you do not name a beneficiary, the death benefit will go to your estate. Or it may be paid in an order (such as spouse, children, parents, siblings) that’s been defined by the insurance company and is based on the provisions of your policy. Either way, if you don’t name it, you don’t get to decide. 

Some importance considerations

Before you name a child as a beneficiary. Know that most insurance companies won’t pay proceeds to minors. Money could go into a state-owned trust until the child becomes an adult or until a custodian is named. Even if naming a minor is allowed, there may be additional court documentation needed, and/or legal fees involved to access the benefit payment. 

Consider this instead: Consult with a legal advisor to make your intentions clear through will and estate planning and use that when naming your beneficiary. 

Look again after these life events

Make it a point to review your beneficiary list on a regular basis, especially if you’ve experienced an important life event like: Marriage or divorce, childbirth or adoption, the loss of a loved one. 

Remember: Life insurance allows you to leave financial support for the people and/or causes you love. Make sure it goes where you intended. Double check your beneficiary designations today.

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1Source: Insurance Information Institute. Retrieved on May 28, 2020 from

This material is intended for general and educational purposes only; it is not intended to provide legal, tax or investment advice. Please consult an independent legal or financial advisor for specific advice about your individual situation. 

Insurance products are underwritten by ReliaStar Life Insurance Company (Minneapolis, MN) and ReliaStar Life Insurance Company of New York (Woodbury, NY), members of the Voya® family of companies. Within the State of New York, only ReliaStar Life Insurance Company of New York is admitted, and its products issued. Both are members of the Voya® family of companies. Voya Employee Benefits is a division of both companies. Product availability and specific provisions may vary by state.