How Do I Pick a Life Insurance Beneficiary?
If you’re married, unless there are very unusual circumstances, your spouse should be the beneficiary, especially if you live in a community property state like Louisiana.
A community property state is a state where any asset acquired during marriage is considered to be community property, which means it’s equally owned by each spouse. Any income that either spouse makes during the marriage is community income.
However, there are exceptions that permit spouses to own assets separately from each other. Gifts, inheritances and assets acquired before the marriage are all considered separate property.
There are only nine community property states, plus three states that allow residents to opt into community property law. The other 38 states plus Washington D.C. follow a common law property system where ownership of marital assets is more straightforward: whoever acquired the property owns it outright. However, a couple can choose to become joint owners, such as through a joint bank account.
If you’re now wondering which states are community property states, they are Louisiana, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.
If you’re single, you might have a tougher time naming a life insurance beneficiary.
If you have minor children, ask a lawyer about naming a trust as beneficiary. This is because a minor use of the proeperty will devolve to the other parent. This can be often be problematic if you are not married, or the other parent of your child is estranged from you. If a trust is the beneficiary of the policy, you can name a trusted family member as the trustee of the trust until you child reaches the appropriate age for distribution of assets from the trust. The distribution can be made in “ages and stages”, over time, if you like.
If you have a disabled family member, consider a special needs trust (“SNT”). A special needs trust (SNT) will allow the funds in the trust to be used for the disabled family member without kicking the disabled family member off of needs based programs.
If you don’t have a trust, you can name an adult family member or any other trusted person. However, remember that if you name an adult family member, once the proceeds are paid, those funds legally belong to that individual. Therefore, you better really trust that person and make certain that he or she understands that the funds need to be used for the intended minor child/children.
Finally, when making your decision, do so as if this account would be paid out tomorrow.
You should always consult with an estate planning attorney.
BOOK A CALL with me, Ted Vicknair, Board Certified Estate Planning and Administration Specialist, Board Certified Tax Law Specialist, and CPA to learn more about estate planning, incapacity planning, and asset protection.
If you liked this article, “How Do I Pick a Life Insurance Beneficiary?” read also these additional articles: How Do Estate Plans and Trusts Work? and What Should I Know About Buying Funeral Services? and Medicaid’s “Snapshot” Date and Its Crucial Impact on a Couple’s Financial Picture and Claiming Social Security Benefits at Age 70
Reference: Cision (May 20, 2022) “How to Choose a Life Insurance Beneficiary”