Normally, when one buys an insurance policy a primary beneficiary is designated, as is a "contingent" beneficiary. The latter is second in line to get the proceeds if the primary beneficiary predeceases the insured and the insured does not name a new primary beneficiary. Another circumstance for the contingent beneficiary to get the proceeds is when the primary beneficiary cannot be found.
The beneficiary designation(s) on the policy may also provide in addition to, or instead of, a contingent beneficiary that the proceeds get paid to the estate of the deceased insured. If that is the case, the proceeds become a part of the cash assets of the estate and are distributed to heirs in accordance with the Will. If there is no Will, the estate is distributed according to the laws of descent and distribution of the state in which the insured died.
If none of the foregoing applies, and after having made a diligent search for the beneficiary(ies), the insurer pays the proceeds to the unclaimed property authorities of the state in which the insured last lived. This is a government agency, or bureau within an agency, and is often annexed to a department of insurance or the chief financial officer of the state. There exists a national organization of unclaimed property offices.
When a life insurance policy is purchased, the purchaser (usually the insured) designates a primary beneficiary and a contingent beneficiary. The contingent beneficiary gets the proceeds if the primary beneficiary predeceases the insured. The insured can name a new primary beneficiary by contacting the insurance company or the insurance agent. THIS IS ONLY TRUE FOR PURCHASED LIFE POLICIES___ NOT POLICIES THROUGH AN EMPLOYER UNDER ERISA.
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