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How do we decide who gets the insurance money?

Life Insurance & Annuities Forum

Mar. 21, 2007

My father recently passed away, and I found a very old life insurance policy of his that lists my mother, who is also deceased, as the beneficiary. Neither parent had any other assets or a will, and there are four surviving children. How do we decide who gets the insurance money?

Samantha, New York

Most life insurance policies will name a second beneficiary, who receives the death benefit if the named beneficiary is deceased. However, it does not sound like your father named a second beneficiary. In the absence of a will from either parent, the New York Insurance Department says the death benefit will go to your mother's estate. Then, New York State's intestacy laws, which govern how property is allocated if the owner dies without a will, dictate which children get the money, and how much. A probate court judge would determine how your father's death benefit would be split among his heirs.

Intestacy laws can be quite complicated, so you may want to speak with a lawyer regarding your father's insurance policy.

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Disclaimer: We are journalists, not financial planners or insurance brokers. Nothing we say should be interpreted as a recommendation to buy or sell any insurance product, or to provide other financial or legal advice.

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