Every life insurance plan requires you to name a beneficiary. Your beneficiary is the person you’ve chosen to receive the death benefit of your life insurance.
It seems simple, but naming beneficiaries could be one of your most important planning steps. Here are four things to consider.
Selecting multiple beneficiaries
When you applied for your life insurance, you were asked to pick two beneficiaries: a principal and a contingent. Generally, your contingent beneficiary receives the payout only if your principal beneficiary is deceased at the time of your death.
You also have the option to list more than one principal and/or contingent beneficiary, as well as the portion you want each to receive. For example, you could give 70% to a spouse and 30% to a sibling.
Naming a minor as your beneficiary
Naming children as beneficiaries for life insurance and other financial plans is common practice and could be the best choice for you. However, keep the following in mind if those children are minors:
- Your children can’t receive death benefit proceeds themselves until they “reach the age of majority.” This age varies by state.
- In many circumstances, a court-appointed guardian or conservator for the minor can receive the death benefit. He/she can use (and conserve) the money for the minor’s benefit.
- If no guardian or conservator is appointed, the money (or at least a portion of it) you intended for your children’s care might be difficult to access for many years.
- Once your children reach the legal age of majority, they may receive a large amount of money all at once. Will they be mature enough to handle that? (Would you have known what to do with $100,000 or more at age 18?)
- You could set up a trust for your children and name the trust as the beneficiary. A trust is an arrangement to manage the distribution of assets – in this case, life insurance proceeds. It can help safeguard the death benefit until your children reach certain ages, while having the money available for their care as needed.
- Having a trust as the beneficiary comes with its own set of considerations. You may want to consult with an attorney before deciding what beneficiary designation makes the most sense for you and your dependents.
Naming your estate as your beneficiary
Designating an estate as beneficiary could lead to a legal process called probate. Depending on your state and your individual circumstances, probate could be time-consuming and expensive. It may be faster and more efficient to name specific people. An attorney can explain the process and help you determine your best option.
Changing your beneficiaries
It only takes a few minutes to ensure your designations match your current wishes. Review them regularly – especially after major life events, such as a marriage, divorce or birth/adoption of a child.
You can see who is currently listed as the beneficiary of your certificate(s) by logging in to your online member account at member.modernwoodmen.org. (Or use the mobile app.)
Your Modern Woodmen representative can help you update your beneficiaries. Or visit modernwoodmen.org, complete a request for change of beneficiary form and send it to Modern Woodmen’s headquarters. Note: Beneficiary updates won’t take effect until Modern Woodmen receives your completed form and acknowledges the change in writing.
Regardless of who you select as your beneficiary, be sure to tell them about your intentions and where to find your certificate information.
Update your beneficiaries online
You can now request an update to your beneficiaries directly through your online Modern Woodmen member account.
You can access your account in two ways:
- Log in at member.modernwoodmen.org.
- Download the mobile app for iOS or Android. To find the app, search for “Modern Woodmen” in your app store.
This members-only site is continuously improving to complement the service your local financial representative offers. In addition to requesting beneficiary updates, you can:
- Track your life insurance and/or annuity account values.
- Access and request member benefits.
- Opt in to receive your annual certificate reports electronically.
- Make convenient, secure online payments.
- Change your name/contact information in Modern Woodmen’s system and access downloadable service forms.
Note: A paper form for designating beneficiaries may be necessary for more complicated requests. Download and print the form from member.modernwoodmen.org, or contact your financial representative for assistance.
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