In a life insurance, who gets the proceeds if the insured and the primary beneficiary died on the same day but did not die simultaneously? 19 Answers as of April 09, 2014

The insured of a life insurance policy dies. The primary beneficiary is listed as his spouse and a contingent beneficiary is also listed on the insurance policy. The insured and the primary beneficiary died on the same day BUT did not die simultaneously. The insured predeceased the primary beneficiary. Since the primary beneficiary was still alive at the time of the insured's death, does the insurance proceeds go to the estate of the primary beneficiary or does the contingent beneficiary get the insurance proceeds? The beneficiary provision in the policy states: "The beneficiary is the person entitled to receive the proceeds payable under this policy because of the insureds death. The beneficiary designated in effect at the insured's death determines that person. The person named in the application as the beneficiary, or "primary beneficiary", is the beneficiary on the policy date. If a person is named as "contingent beneficiary", such person will become the beneficiary upon the death of the last surviving primary beneficiary BEFORE the insured's death." I interpret this to mean the primary beneficiaries estate would be paid the insurance proceeds because the primary beneficiary was still alive at the time of the insured's death. Am I correct in this interpretation? Your help and clarification would be greatly appreciated.

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Edward L. Armstrong, P.C. | Edward L. Armstrong
The way that I understand the issues here are as follows: the primary beneficiary survived the insured by whatever amount of time and hence should be entitled to the policy proceeds however yes the state in which the insured was residing at the time of his death had a provision that a beneficiary or other person designated to receive assets on the date of the person had to survive by a certain amount of time, this may change the result under the policy. You might also check the "fine print" of the policy to see if the contract itself provides that he beneficiary must survive the insured by any certain period of time. If neither state law nor the policy itself requires any particular survival. Then the estate of the primary beneficiary should receive the policy proceeds. While the insured's will does not typically govern the proceeds of an insurance policy it may provide some indication as to the wishes of the deceased person. Hope this helps your understanding of this problem.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 4/9/2014
Ronald K. Nims LLC | Ronald K. Nims
Life insurance is a contract, the parties to a contract can set whatever terms that they want - as long as the terms are legal. Since the owner of the policy provided that the primary beneficiary would receive the death benefit as long as the primary beneficiary survived the owner; then the primary beneficiary (or in this case her/his heirs) will receive the death benefit. It doesn't matter how long the primary beneficiary survives the insured, even by one second would suffice. The policy owner could have inserted a provision that the primary beneficiary must survive him by a certain length of time, these are fairly common, but he didn't, so the death benefits will be paid to the primary beneficiary's estate.
Answer Applies to: Ohio
Replied: 3/19/2014
Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C.
Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C. | Brian Haggerty
The insurance policy may set a time by which a beneficiary must survive the insured in order to be paid. So, the primary beneficiary might have to survive the insured for 48 hours, or 30 days, or some such. Also, the policy may say that if proceeds are payable to a decedent, they will be paid to the decedent's children (or some other choice). Or, you may be right, proceeds are payable to the primary beneficiary's estate. It all comes down to what the insurance policy says.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 3/19/2014
Peters Law, PLLC
Peters Law, PLLC | Mark T. Peters, Sr.
The only complication might be if the state where the people lived has a statute that requires a person to be alive for a certain period of time in order to be deemed to have survived the decedent.
Answer Applies to: Idaho
Replied: 3/18/2014
Estrada Law P.C. | Michele Ungvarsky
Carefully check the policy, usually the contract has provisions that assume a beneficiary predeceased the insured if they do not live for x days after the insured. When in doubt call the insurance company.
Answer Applies to: New Mexico
Replied: 3/18/2014
    Law Office of Pamela Braynon | Pamela Y. Braynon
    Your interpretation is spot on. Because the primary beneficiary survived the insured, no matter that it was hours, that person was entitled to the proceeds of the policy, therefore, the policy should be paid to that person's estate.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 3/18/2014
    The Schreiber Law Firm
    The Schreiber Law Firm | Jeffrey D. Schreiber
    If it is clear and is established that the policy holder died prior to the death of the beneficiary, then the proceeds should go to the estate of the beneficiary. There is no requirement you have to live so long after the death of the insured, only that the order of death is clear. If it is not clear or cannot be determined who died first, only then may the simultaneous death act of the state come into play to resolve the order.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/18/2014
    Law Offices of George H. Shers | George H. Shers
    This sounds like a law school question and this site is not a place for such matters.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/18/2014
    Law Office Of Victor Waid
    Law Office Of Victor Waid | Victor Waid
    Primary beneficiary survived the insure, therefore is entitled to the proceeds or his heirs(children).
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/18/2014
    Sebby Law Office
    Sebby Law Office | Jayne Sebby
    Usually, if the two parties die within about 120 hours of each other, the assumption is that each predeceased the other. So the primary beneficiary would be considered deceased and the proceeds would go to the secondary beneficiary. The exception would be if the primary beneficiary was listed "per stirpes" or "by representation" in which case the heirs of the primary beneficiary would have a claim to the proceeds. You will need to check the laws of the state in which the insured lived at the time of his/her death to be sure who is entitled to the proceeds, however.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 3/18/2014
    Danville Law Group | Scott Jordan
    In California, as long as there is clear and convincing evidence to support the fact that the primary beneficiary died AFTER the insured, the proceeds of the life insurance policy goes to the primary beneficiary and will be administered through the primary beneficiaries probate estate.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/17/2014
    Law Ofices of Edwin K. Niles | Edwin K. Niles
    Would have to read the policy.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/17/2014
    Goldsmith & Guymon
    Goldsmith & Guymon | Dara Goldsmith
    You need an attorney to review the policy and also determine which state's law applies. This information is only intended to give general information in response to an inquiry. It does not establish an attorney client relationship. This response is only based upon the limited facts presented and is merely intended to assist you in determining if you should contact an attorney to provide you with legal advice.
    Answer Applies to: Nevada
    Replied: 3/18/2014
    Frederick & Frederick PLC | James P Frederick
    You may be correct, but there may be a separate provision in the policy or state law that would apply. This is a complicated and unusual situation. You need to try to work with the insurance company, and if they do not cooperate, then consult an attorney to see how best to proceed.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 3/17/2014
    Attorney At Law | James G. Maguire
    Your interpretation is correct.
    Answer Applies to: Louisiana
    Replied: 3/17/2014
    Gates' Law, PLLC | Thomas E. Gates
    The primary beneficiary's estate prevails.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 3/17/2014
    Law Offices of Robert H. Glorch | Jeffrey R. Gottlieb
    I think you're right, unless there is a survivorship provision written into the beneficiary designation or the life insurance agreement.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 3/17/2014
    James Law Group
    James Law Group | Christine James
    Likely the estate. You can do a small estate affidavit and name ALL heirs or beneficiaries of the will if the total is less than $150,000. If more, you need to find an attorney and file for probate.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 3/17/2014
    Ashcraft & Ashcraft, Ltd.
    Ashcraft & Ashcraft, Ltd. | Randall C. Romei
    The exact terms and definitions under the insurance policy control. The insurance company can give you a more definitive answer as to the terms written into their own policy. The plain meaning of what you recited would make the named primary beneficiary the actual beneficiary since it can be established that the named primary beneficiary was alive at the time the insured died. Upon the death of the named primary beneficiary the primary beneficiaries estate would receive the death benefit.
    Answer Applies to: Illinois
    Replied: 3/17/2014
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