Who gets life insurance proceeds if the beneficiary of a policy dies?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Who gets life insurance proceeds if the beneficiary of a policy dies?

My father passed away last month. My brother and I were contacted by the life insurance company to fill out survivorship paperwork as his beneficiary passed as well. The beneficiary’s wife is setting up an estate. Isn’t this my and my brothers responsibility? How do we stop this?

Asked on November 8, 2017 under Estate Planning, Arizona


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If the named beneficiary passes away, the life insurance proceeds go to the insured's "estate" and are distibuted as part of it--it does not go to the beneficiary's estate, unless the beneficiary passed away after the insured (your father) did. If the beneficiary died first (pre-deceased) the insured, it becomes part of the insured (your father's) estate and will go to the insured's heirs (presumably, you and your brother). Your father's estate should be set up and administered by his executor, if he he had  will naming an executor; or by his court appointed administrator or personal representative (either term may be used), who generally is next of kin (or one of those who are next of kin) to the deceased. If you and yoru brother are next of kin, contact the probate court in the county in which your father lived for instructions on having someone (one of you) appointed administrator.

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