Should the company be informed of any new life insurance beneficiaries?

The case : Mr. B. wishes to designate his daughter as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy that he intended until now for his son. Will he have to inform the insurer of this reversal?

The lawyer’s response: Not necessarily, because a life insurance subscriber can, until his death, freely change the recipient of the contract, whether he indicates this choice directly to the insurer, by then asking him for a modification of the beneficiary clause, or whether he does so by will. However, in the latter case, the holder has no obligation to inform the company of the substitution made, as the Court of Cassation reminded a widow who refused to return the 132,000 euros of a life insurance policy opened at his name, but to which his son-in-law considered himself entitled, under a will signed by his father designating him as the sole beneficiary of the funds (2nd civil chamber, judgment no. 20-19.655 of March 10, 2022).

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To this woman, who pointed out that the notary in charge of the estate had not communicated the will in question to the insurer until more than a year after the death, and that, therefore, the company did not have to hold account of a change of will of which it had not been duly informed, the judges indicated that such a substitution “does not need, for its validity, to be brought to the attention of the insurer when it is carried out by means of a will”. And that the document left by this father, even revealed late, obliged him to return the sums to his son-in-law. For his part, Mr. B. will therefore be able to freely substitute his son for his daughter, provided that he goes through a will.

By Barthélemy Lemiale, lawyer at the Court, partner of the firm Valmy Avocats.

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