Life Insurance Beneficiary Designations

Illustration  Ted Bongiovanni
Learn beneficiary distinctions.
Help yourself protect your family.
Credit: Ted Bongiovanni


Life insurance beneficiary designation can either be revocable or irrevocable.

A revocable beneficiary can be changed by the owner of the policy without the signature of the beneficiary.

An irrevocable beneficiary gives the beneficiary extra ordinary powers, so that policy changes can only be made with the signatures of the owner of the policy and the beneficiary.

This is a very important distinction and because of this, irrevocable beneficiaries are often included as part of a divorce settlement. Policy changes, such as decreases in coverage or accessing any cash surrender value, require the signature of the irrevocable beneficiary on the policy.


Beneficiaries, whether revocable or irrevocable, can also be divided into either primary beneficiaries or contingent beneficiaries. Primary beneficiaries are the person, who would receive the proceeds, if the insured were to die. The contingent beneficiary takes effect if the insured and the beneficiary were to die simultaneously.

An example of this might be a husband who names his spouse as the beneficiary, but names his children as contingent beneficiaries. This will insure the policy proceeds are paid out immediately should the husband and wife die together.

It’s important that if a beneficiary is a minor, a trustee be named. The trustee should be someone with whom the insured has a strong relationship and has a solid financial background. He or she should also be someone who is of sound mind, and preferably not entering their senior years.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call us at 1-866-899-4849, or you can get a quote at our Instant Quote Page.

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  • Edith
    May 14, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    Can your beneficiary collect benefits after a suicide?

    • LSM Insurance
      May 15, 2013 at 8:36 am

      Hi Edith,

      Most policies need to be inforce at least 2 years before they will pay out in the event of suicide. Some plans may also have additional travel or activity exclusions so this must also be verified.

  • LSM Insurance
    October 3, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    Thanks for the note. The irrevocable beneficiary must sign off on any policy changes. The money should flow through directly to the beneficiary but this could depend on when the beneficiary were designated in relation to when the creditors were owed money.

    If the primary beneficiary dies and there is no contingent beneficiary the money would go to the insured’s estate

    October 3, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    Kindly explain/elaborate following:

    1. Can a Contingent Beneficiary be named when an Irrevocale Beneficiary is named in an Insurance Policy?

    2. I have named my sister/cousin as a Beneficiary in my Insurance. Do they have Creditor protection? On my death, do they have to settle the claims of the creditors and pay Probate duty?

    3. The Irrevocalbe Benificiary dies ( assumimg here that a contingent beneficiary cannot be named / or is not named, if allowed ), who gets the death benefits?

    Many thanks.