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Life insurance policy ownership

Find out if you should you own the policy insuring your life, or let someone else own it.

The life insurance policy owner is the person who pays for the policy and has control to cancel or change it. Either the person whose life is insured or the beneficiary can own the policy — and joint policies can have more than one owner. To find the right ownership option for your situation, consider how you and your loved ones are affected by who owns the policy.

Who is the life insurance policy owner?

Typically, the life insurance policy owner is the same person whose life is insured by the policy. However, some beneficiaries opt to take out life insurance on someone else if the person stands to lose money or support when the insured dies.

For context, the beneficiary is the person who receives the payment if the person whose life is insured dies. The person whose life is insured may be called the insured, life insured or person insured.

However, the policy owner can be a variety of people, including:

  • Beneficiary. If you take out life insurance on someone else and name yourself as the beneficiary, you’ll need the person’s permission as well as an insurable interest — proof that you’d suffer financially if the insured dies.
  • Business. Businesses may take out key person insurance to cover lost revenue due to losing a key employee.
  • Cross ownership. Many couples each own a policy on their partner, making the claims process easier if their loved one dies. But you probably won’t want an ex to own a policy on you if you break up or get divorced.
  • Joint ownership. A joint policy gives you some control over your policy, though any policy changes must be signed off by both owners. Also, a divorce or breakup can lead to difficulties if your partner doesn’t agree to separate ownership.
  • Person insured. Most people own a policy while insuring their own lives, giving full control over their own life insurance.

    Responsibilities with life insurance ownership

    As the policy owner, you have the ability to make major changes to your policy benefits, including:

    • Adjusting coverage, also called the death benefit — Many life insurers let you adjust the death benefit as your life changes, though only universal and variable life let you change coverage levels multiple times.
    • Maintaining, renewing or canceling — The policy owner is responsible for paying premiums and deciding whether to renew a term life policy after its end date or cancel coverage altogether.
    • Naming beneficiaries — You’ll choose one or more beneficiaries to receive the death benefit when you die, naming the percentages that each beneficiary receives. Most people nominate their spouse or children as primary beneficiaries, but who you choose is up to you. If naming a minor, you’ll need to set up a guardian or trust to manage the funds.
    • Transferring ownership — You can choose to let someone else take over the policy, like a spouse or adult child who is caring for you as you age.
    • Updating with additional benefits — You and other joint owners can add benefits like coverage for a child, living benefits or long-term care riders.
    • Updating account details — You can review your account online or contact your insurer to change your address or the payment method listed, though you’ll need proof for a major update like a name change.

        Should I own my life insurance policy?

        The decision to own your life insurance policy depends on how much control you’d like over the policy and whether your loved ones benefit from owning the policy themselves. Most people do own the policy that insures their own lives, giving total control over adjusting the coverage, benefits and beneficiaries.

        However, the main benefit of letting others own the policy is that they know the details of your coverage and how to file a claim. Every year, many people leave death benefits unclaimed simply because they don’t know about the policy — and life insurers aren’t required to notify beneficiaries.

        Common reasons to let someone own a life insurance policy on you:

        • It helps a spouse or your children quickly access the death benefit.
        • Someone is co-signing a loan for you.
        • Your adult child is caring for you as you age.
        • Someone depends on you financially.

        How to transfer ownership of a life insurance policy

        Transferring the ownership of your life insurance policy is a straightforward process. You can follow several steps to make the change.

        1. Contact your insurance company. Each insurer has forms that you can request to change the policy’s ownership or beneficiaries.
        2. Complete the form with all required details. The ownership transfer form will need basic information about the new policy owner, including their name, address, social security number and their relationship to you.
        3. Forfeit legal rights to the policy. Once you submit the form and the change is processed, you won’t have legal rights to update the policy’s beneficiaries, ownership or coverage details.

        4 pitfalls to watch out for

        As a policy owner, you might make several mistakes that would affect your loved ones’ payout if you die. Those include:

        1. Not telling beneficiaries about the policy.

        Many loved ones don’t know that they’re named as a beneficiary on someone’s life insurance policy. If you’re insuring your own life, ensure the death benefit gets paid out by letting beneficiaries know about their inheritance. The best time to notify loved ones is right after naming them as beneficiaries.

        2. Setting and forgetting coverage.

        You want to review your life insurance coverage from time to time, adding coverage or considering a separate policy if you need extra coverage. A good time to review your policy is after major life events, such as buying a house, having children or paying off debt.

        For example, if you need a higher death benefit to pay for kids’ college tuition or your mortgage, you could buy another term life policy with coverage that matches the financial need.

        3. Not including your life insurance ownership in a will.

        If you’re insuring someone else’s life but you die first, your policy ownership can be passed on according to your will. However, if you don’t have a will, state laws would dictate the next steps for the policy. To avoid difficulties for loved ones, give clear instructions in your will about who should own the policy if you die.

        4. Not updating the policy if your beneficiary dies.

        If a beneficiary dies before the person insured dies, the death benefit passes to other beneficiaries listed on the policy, known as contingent beneficiaries. If all of your named beneficiaries die and you don’t name new beneficiaries, you become the beneficiary of your own policy and the money gets added to your estate.

        Avoid confusion about what to do with your death benefit by reviewing your policy’s beneficiaries every few years.

        Compare life insurance companies

        Whether you’re looking to own the policy by yourself or as a joint owner, explore life insurance companies’ perks and benefits, and select view rates to get a quote.

        Bottom line

        You do have different ways of structuring a policy’s ownership. Talk with your loved ones to decide which option works best for you. And to get the best deal on a new policy, compare life insurance providers.

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        32 Responses

          Default Gravatar
          CathyAugust 24, 2019

          Can a third party that has access to the policy number be prosecuted for making a change of address to receive the policy information to their address?

            BellaAugust 25, 2019Finder

            Hi Cathy,

            Thanks for your inquiry.

            Please note that Finder is here to help you make the best financial decisions possible. However, this does not extend into matters of illegality, and therefore we are unable to provide you with information that may constitute legal advice. It’s best to reach out to an attorney that specializes in these matters to give you legal advice.

            I hope this helps.

            Kind regards,

          Default Gravatar
          ChristineJuly 21, 2019

          My father just bought a life policy to me, where he is the policy owner and I am the insured.

          May I know if he nominates me as the only beneficiary, will the insurance ownership be transfer to mine? Or it will form part of my estate?

          Ia there a way to transfer the ownership of this policy to me when he passes on without stating it in his will?

            fayemanuelJuly 22, 2019Finder

            Hi Christine,

            Thanks for contacting Finder.

            You may want to review your policy or contact your insurer to know if your father nominates you as the only beneficiary. Basically, the owner can be either the insured, the beneficiary or a joint ownership between the two parties. Your father has full and total control and can cancel or change the policy. In the event that the life insurance policy owner dies, ownership of the policy would become part of the deceased’s will. Ownership can then be passed on according to the terms of the will. If no such terms are in the will, ownership will be set by laws of intestate succession.

            I hope that helps.

            Kind Regards,


          Default Gravatar
          BrittanyFebruary 28, 2019

          I was contacted by a life insurance company about my “estate”. Apparently it was opened in error, as I am still alive. It did however lead to me discovering that my grandpa, who passed in 2011 opened this policy on me when I was a baby, I am the insured person. He was the policy owner, and is now deceased. I was told that I need to have whoever was the executor of his estate send documentation in and that they can give them all of the information regarding the policy and I can be appointed as the policy owner. Obviously his estate has been closed for nearly a decade, I don’t know how that influences things. Is this something I can cash out? My grandma, his wife, passed away two years ago. Thank you!

            ValMarch 4, 2019Finder

            Hi Brittany,

            Thank you for leaving a question.

            If the policy owner is not the life insured, ownership of the policy would become part of the deceased’s will. Ownership can then be passed on according to the terms of the will. If no such terms are in the will, ownership will be set by laws of intestate succession. If you have documentation to prove that your name is on the policy or the will then you may contact the insurer directly to check on how to cash out money.

            Hope this helps.


          Default Gravatar
          DeedeeFebruary 26, 2019

          How can I change the policy owner on my life insurance policy if the current owner is in jail?

            JoshuaFebruary 28, 2019Finder

            Hi Deedee,

            Thanks for getting in touch with Finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

            Generally, it is only the policy owner who can give up ownership of the policy. This means that you would need the consent and cooperation of the current owner. You can then contact the insurer to obtain a change of policyholder form. The owner who is in jail can then accomplish that form and it is up to you who are outside the jail to take care of the rest.

            Since changing of ownership can be different from one provider to another and your situation may differ, please discuss this with your insurer to ensure you are taking the right steps.

            I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

            Have a wonderful day!


          Default Gravatar
          HoraceFebruary 22, 2019

          Been paying the premium on a policy to keep it from lapsing. However, when I contacted the issuing insurance company to find data on the owner, the insured, and beneficiary, I was told I could not have access to those names. How can this info be obtained legally?

            JoshuaFebruary 24, 2019Finder

            Hi Horace,

            Thanks for getting in touch with Finder. I hope all is well with you. :)

            In most cases, you would need to find the owner of the policy to ask them directly for your needed information. If this does not work, you would need the help of a legal consultant. Speak with one of them and see how you can legally obtain these details.

            I hope this helps. Should you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach us out again.

            Have a wonderful day!


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