Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insur...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years Leslie Kasperowicz

UPDATED: Jan 22, 2022

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The Brief

  • There aren’t many restrictions on who you can name as a life insurance beneficiary, but some life insurance companies may have more limitations than others
  • You can name multiple beneficiaries on your life insurance policy
  • While many people name their spouse as their primary beneficiary, it’s a good idea to name a contingent beneficiary as well

Having life insurance can help to ensure that your loved ones will be able to support themselves after your death, so it’s important that you carefully consider who to name as a life insurance beneficiary.

With most policies, you can name any individual or entity as a beneficiary, and you are allowed to name multiple beneficiaries on the same policy.

However, some states like California may have different rules on who you can name as a beneficiary and how the death benefit will be split.

So what are the restrictions on naming beneficiaries? And who should you designate as a life insurance beneficiary?

In this article, we’ll review everything you need to know about life insurance beneficiaries.

Are you looking for affordable life insurance? Enter your ZIP code to obtain free life insurance quotes from the top companies in your area.

What is a life insurance beneficiary?

A life insurance beneficiary is an individual or entity to whom you will leave your life insurance death benefit after you pass away.

While many people name their spouse, you can name almost any person with few restrictions.

If you name only one beneficiary, it’s a good idea to name a contingent beneficiary as well. This will help to ensure that the death benefit will be given to a person of your choosing in the event that your primary beneficiary does not want to receive the death benefit or cannot collect the death benefit for any reason.

You can also name multiple beneficiaries. In this case, your death benefit would be split evenly between the beneficiaries you name.

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Whom should I list as a beneficiary?

There are very few restrictions on naming a beneficiary, and you can designate almost anyone as your term or whole life insurance beneficiary.

Many people list their spouse as their primary life insurance beneficiary. Not only does this help to ensure that your partner is able to take care of themselves after your death, but it’s also beneficial if you have children together since you cannot name a minor as your beneficiary.

The death benefit would help your spouse to afford the costs for childcare and other related services, especially if you are the breadwinner.

Life Insurance Beneficiary: Spouse or Child

Although you can’t name a minor as a beneficiary, you can designate your child as a beneficiary if they are an adult.

If you’re trying to decide whether you should name your spouse or adult child as your beneficiary, the option is available to list them both and split the death benefit between them.

If you only want to list a primary beneficiary, you’ll need to decide whom to leave the death benefit to.

In this case, you can name a primary beneficiary and list your second choice as the contingent beneficiary, in the event that the primary beneficiary dies before they can collect the death benefit.

Life Insurance Beneficiary Rules

While there are a wide variety of options available when choosing your beneficiaries, there are some rules on who you can name as a beneficiary.

You can’t designate minors as beneficiaries on your life insurance policy. If you want your children to be taken care of after you die, you can name your spouse, one of your parents, or a trusted friend as a beneficiary to help them pay for the costs of providing care for your children.

Some life insurance companies may also put additional limitations on who you can designate as a beneficiary, so it’s important to check with your insurer to find out who you can list.

Life Insurance Beneficiary Rules in California

The rules for naming a life insurance beneficiary don’t differ very much from state to state, but there may be certain restrictions in some states.

For example, in California, your death benefit may be split between your spouse and your primary beneficiary even if you did not name your spouse as a beneficiary on your life insurance policy.

Although this rule doesn’t always apply, if you are living in California, talking with your insurance provider can help you to learn more about any restrictions or rules regarding your beneficiaries.

Life Insurance Beneficiaries: What’s the bottom line?

When selecting a life insurance beneficiary, it’s important to consider all of your options.

While you can’t name your child as a beneficiary if they are under 18 years old, naming a close friend or relative can help them to cover the costs of childcare after your death.

Some life insurance companies may limit your options regarding beneficiaries and death benefits, so it’s important to check with your life insurance provider to determine if there are any limitations in place before designating a beneficiary.

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