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Ask the Life Insurance Expert

I think my mother has a life insurance policy with no named beneficiary. She has no spouse, but three adult children. Would either of my siblings be able to claim the entire policy without notifying the others?

No. Neither you nor your siblings could claim the life insurance benefits if you aren’t listed on the policy as beneficiaries. 

If your mother indeed has no named beneficiary, her life insurance benefits would go to her estate when she dies.  The executor of the estate should then disperse the funds according to the will.

See “Can scheming relatives steal your life insurance money?” to understand more on this topic.

It would prudent for your mother to name beneficiaries on her life insurance policy.  This is much easier than having the money go to the estate, especially if she has no will and the estate has to go through the probate process -- which can be long and expensive.

I’d recommend speaking to your mom about life insurance.  Let her know she can have more than one beneficiary. She can divide up the policy benefits to all three of her children if she so desires.  There are many ways to mess up when setting up a life insurance beneficiary, so I’d suggest your mother reads “Naming life insurance beneficiaries: 10 ways to screw up.”

Last updated: Jul. 1, 2014