|Q: How do I change the beneficiary on my life insurance policy?
Changing the beneficiary on a life insurance policy is generally a simple matter. You'll need to contact your insurance company and follow its instructions for executing a change of beneficiary. Beneficiary change requests must be in writing, usually on a form that your insurer will provide. Some insurance companies actually make a physical change to your insurance policy (called an endorsement) to reflect the new beneficiary, but this is unusual.
Sometimes changing the beneficiary on your life insurance policy can be more difficult. If you have designated an irrevocable beneficiary, you are not allowed to make changes to this designation without first getting the current beneficiary's consent. If you live in a community property state, your spouse must give his or her consent before you can name anyone else as your beneficiary.
If you are changing your beneficiary as a result of divorce, make sure you comply with the terms of your divorce decree. Your settlement agreement may require you to maintain life insurance coverage with your ex-spouse as beneficiary. In this case, you cannot legally change the beneficiary. Keep in mind, also, that if you designated your spouse as beneficiary while you were married, divorce does not change this. If you do not want your ex-spouse to receive the benefits of your life insurance policy (assuming that your divorce decree does not require you to maintain that coverage), you will need to execute a change of beneficiary.
Whatever you do, don't make the mistake of thinking that you can change the beneficiary of your life insurance policy via your will. A change of beneficiary specified in your will does NOT override the beneficiary designation of your life insurance policy. If you want to change the beneficiary, make sure you follow the procedures established by your insurance company.