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college graduate kissing his mom on the forehead for Quotacy blog My Parents Bought Life Insurance on Me as a Baby. Is It Mine Now?

My Parents Bought Life Insurance on Me as a Baby. Is It Mine Now?

September 10, 2020
Our goal is to educate and advise on life insurance options, so you can feel confident in making the right choice, whether that’s through Quotacy or somewhere else. To ensure we provide accurate and trustworthy information, our writers follow strict editorial standards.

Children’s Whole Life Insurance is a commonly purchased life insurance product. Parents and grandparents can buy these policies on their minor children and grandchildren.

There are many reasons why parents and grandparents may choose to buy a child’s whole life insurance policy. Some benefits of buying children’s whole life insurance include:

  • Locking in a low premium
  • Guaranteeing life insurance coverage for the child no matter what health issues may occur
  • Option to purchase more coverage later in the child’s life
  • Accumulating cash value that grows with the child

These policies typically don’t have large face amounts. They often range from $5,000 to $50,000 in coverage, but if the worst should happen and a child dies far too young, the death benefit can help the parent pay for a funeral and other expenses.

In most cases, thankfully, children grow into healthy adults and proceed to live long lives. But this doesn’t mean the policy now has no purpose. Children’s whole life insurance is a permanent product which means it will provide coverage until the insured dies, no matter when that is, as long as the premiums keep getting paid.

We get the following question from many of these insured children who have now grown up:

Is the policy my parent bought on me when I was young now mine?

The simple answer is no. Although there are a few companies that offer products that do become the child’s asset at age 21, most policies bought on children do not automatically transfer ownership.

These policies are owned by the parent/grandparent. Policyowners have control over the policy. Although the child may be the person who is insured, the child does not have legal rights to the policy, even as adults.

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Parent Owners Can Transfer Ownership (if they want to)

Policyowners can transfer ownership to the adult child if they choose to do so. In fact, this is a popular decision. When the adult child grows up and has a family of their own, this small whole life insurance policy purchased on them when they were young has accumulated cash value. These funds can be accessed through policy loans and withdrawal or surrenders.

But parent/grandparent policyowners are under no obligation to transfer ownership, even if the adult child requests it. As owners, they have unrestricted access to the cash value and can use it however they wish. The parent or grandparent sometimes will simply opt to surrender (terminate) the policy and receive the surrender value in cash.

If your parent or grandparent owns a policy on you and you prefer to be the owner, you can offer to buy it from them. Offer what the policy is worth in exchange for transferring ownership. But, again, they aren’t required to accept the offer.

Parent Owners Can Change Beneficiaries (if they want to)

In lieu of transferring ownership, some parent/grandparent owners may also choose to just change the beneficiary. But we don’t recommend this course of action. Here’s why.

The typical scenario: If a parent/grandparent buys a life insurance policy on their minor child, they are likely the beneficiary as well. When this child grows up and has a family of their own, some parent owners may choose to change the beneficiary to the child’s spouse as a gesture of love. With this setup, they still own and have control over the policy. They still pay the premiums. If they want to access the cash value account, they can, but the death benefit goes to the child’s spouse when the child dies.

The problem with this scenario: when a life insurance policy has three different people named as owner, insured, and beneficiary, this creates a tax issue. When the insured dies, the owner is essentially gifting the death benefit proceeds to the beneficiary. In normal circumstances, a death benefit is paid tax-free, but not when it’s a gift in the eyes of the government.

If a parent wants the child’s family to receive the death benefit, it’s best to just transfer ownership to avoid the death benefit becoming taxable.

In conclusion, children whole life insurance policies are purchased out of love and protection. There is no reason to feel uneasy, but open a dialogue with your parent/grandparent if you’re concerned about this policy on you.

If discussing with them isn’t an option and you’re truly troubled that someone else has a policy on you that you don’t have control over, contact your local insurance commissioner for assistance. You can find contact information for the commissioner’s office in the state you live in here: NAIC.org.

Why You Need Your Own Life Insurance Policy

You’re an adult now. You have financial obligations and responsibilities that no one else is going to take care of. If you have a family, people who would be impacted financially if you died, then you need to get your own life insurance policy.

Don’t rely on the small whole life insurance policy your parents may have purchased on you when you were young. Even if ownership does transfer to you, this amount is likely not enough to replace the income you provide to your family.

You also should not rely on any life insurance you may have through your employer. Group life insurance does not follow you if you leave your job. It’s also a limited amount, typically 1-2 times your income. If you die unexpectedly, how many months until your family begins to struggle to pay bills without your paycheck?

Term life insurance is very affordable. And buying your own policy means it follows you no matter where you live or work. You’re in control. You choose how much coverage to buy and how long the coverage will last.

Term lengths range from 10-40 years, and once you buy the policy, you lock in your rate for that entire term. So, if you buy a 30-year term policy for $30 per month, the rate will never increase even as you age or even if you develop a serious health condition.

Unsure how much life insurance coverage you need? Our easy-to-use needs calculator can help.

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50 Comments

  1. Caroline Johnson

    I have a policy that my parents took out on me in 1969. Dad died and it went under mom’s name. I was the beneficiary. While she was still alive I changed that to my husband, as it made no sense to be my own beneficiary. He was also listed as the secondary owner. Now looking at the policy, my parents took out a loan years ago and the loan balance is almost $6K for a $10K policy, and the cash value is just over $6K. Premiums have been paid on this policy for 53 years now. I am wanting to cancel it but need clarification on tax consequences. If I cash it in for the value, it will be next to nothing since the loan amount will be taken out. The so called growth of this policy has been non-existant. Dividends are allotted to the premium which is not much, less than half, but the remaining is supposed to be added to the insurance proceeds of the policy and that has not happened as far as I can tell. The company tells us we will have nothing, however, I’m wondering about where that money went. And if I cash out, what is taxable since I am not the one who took out the loan.

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius, CLU

      Hello Caroline, this is a complex situation. If you surrender the policy or if it lapses for any reason, the carrier will calculate whether there is any taxable gain and they will report to the IRS. I believe they will determine this by taking the gross policy value (ignoring the outstanding loan) and they will subtract the owner basis in the policy. If the basis is less than the gross policy value, the difference will be reported as taxable income (even though you will not get any income). Your basis, since your mother gifted the policy to you, is the same basis your mother had adding any premiums you paid out of pocket. I recommend you call your insurance company and ask directly what happens if you cancel the loan. They will be able to look up your policy and give you more precise answers.

      Reply
  2. Steve

    My parents took out several small life insurance policies on me when I was a child. My father recently passed away and my mother no longer wants to pay the premium or be responsible for the policies. She has offered to transfer ownership to me and I would take over the premiums. Can you tell me if this would result in any immediate taxes being assessed under the Gift Tax rules? Or would there be taxes payable in the future if the policy is held until I pass away (I would name my spouse as the new beneficiary when I become the owner). Thanks!

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius, CLU

      Hello Steve,

      If the policy cash value is less than $17,000, then there are no gift tax concerns. If the value is over $17,000 then your mother would have a gift tax liability. However, she can use her lifetime gift exemption to avoid having to pay any gift tax.

      Reply
  3. Steve L

    Hello, my mother was the policy owner on me (her son) since I was young. Appearently she has been paying on it for years. Unfortunately my mother passed away recently and we came across this information while cleaning out her home. My question is.. (1)being the insured can I have that policy transferred in my name? (2)Is there a way for me to receive a payout of that policy to help with funeral expenses?

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      I’m sorry to hear you recently lost your mother. When the owner of a policy dies before the insured, the life insurance policy is transferred to a new owner. Some policies already state who is to become the owner if the owner dies, but if the policy does not list a successor owner, then your mother’s will would determine who inherits her assets, which would include the life insurance policy. If she didn’t have a will, the probate court would determine ownership.

      If you are named the owner and given control over the policy, you can access the cash value if there is any for expenses. However, you would not receive any death benefit payouts because you’re the insured, not your mother, and you’re still alive.

      I hope I answered some of your questions. I recommend that you reach out to the insurance company your mom purchased the policy from and ask for further assistance and next steps.

      Reply
  4. Derek S

    Hi, I took out a life insurance policy when I was about 18. At 38 I had to have some serious surgery so I signed the policy over to my mom. Now I’m 64 , my brother is now her POA as she is bed ridden. He is trying to access my policy. Mom can still make her decisions so she signed the policy over to me. We sent the info only to find he has already changed some of the info. Where do I stand with this? Our state law doesn’t allow transfer of ownership with the POA he has but does allow transactions. What would they entail? Thank you

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      If you’re the owner again, you have control over the policy. Contact the insurance company directly and make changes so it’s set up according to your wishes.

      Reply
  5. Suzanne

    My husband had a termlife policy on 1 of his children where he was the owner and beneficiary, no alternative beneficiary. He passed away and the policy became the property of his estate. As the administrator do I have the ability to cash that policy, Mass Mutual sent me surrender forms with the Estate name, I put the tax number on it and had it notarized

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      Hi Suzanne, I’m sorry to hear about the passing of your husband. A term life insurance policy does not accumulate cash value nor is there a surrender value, so there is nothing to cash in. You may want to clarify with Mass Mutual what the surrender forms are for.

      Typically in cases like this, the life insurance policy would be transferred to a new owner. Some policies already state who is to become the owner if the original owner predeceases the insured. If the policy does not list a successor owner, then your husband’s will would determine who inherits assets, which would include the life insurance policy. If he didn’t have a will, the probate court would determine ownership. The new owner can then change the policy beneficiary.

      Reply
  6. Sam

    Hello, my grandma took out a policy on me as a child. The policy became mines at 21. She will not give me the information on the policy, like the company it’s with. Is there away I can find this information out?

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      Hi Sam, how do you know the policy became yours at 21? Not all children’s life insurance policies automatically transfer ownership to the child at age of majority.
      If I were you, I’d keep trying to have a conversation with your grandma about the policy. Or contact your state’s insurance commissioner for further advice. Their information can be found here: NAIC.org.

      Reply
    • Karen Patnaude

      My husband recently past and he had been making payments on his now grown son life insurance he took out on him years ago and there was no owner on it beside my husband. I tried to cancel it and get the cash, it was whole life. I will told since son was grown, it would half to be his son that cancels it because he was now an adult and no owner was designated but they would continue using our bank for the payments

      Reply
  7. Amanda schwartz

    My husband’s mother took a life insurance policy out on him in his name many years ago. He is listed as policy holder but with her mailing address. We discovered this a week ago. Is this legal?

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      If your husband is listed as the policyowner, he can call into the insurance company and update the mailing address.

      Reply
  8. MT2022

    My father in law took out a whole life insurance policy on my husband and transferred it to him a year ago. We were able to get the cash payout. My question is will we have to pay taxes on it? I’ve asked this in different forums but have yet to get a clear response. Some say yes. Some say no. Some say yes but only a small amount. So hoping you may could clarify this.

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      When you surrender a policy for it’s cash value, you will owe income taxes on any gain above what your basis is in the policy (in this case it’s your father in law’s basis at the time of transfer).

      The basis is the total amount of premiums paid (minus any previous withdrawals if your father in law took out withdrawals) into the policy at the time of the surrender. So, if your cash payout (the surrender value) is greater than the total amount of premiums your father in law had paid, then you will owe taxes on the difference.

      I hope this helps! Taxes and life insurance can be complicated. I recommend you call the insurance company that wrote the policy if you have any specific questions.

      Reply
    • Jamke

      Where do I ask my question?

      Reply
      • Natasha Cornelius

        Jamke, you can ask your question here in the comments section. Or if you want a detailed response regarding buying a life insurance policy, you can contact Quotacy directly at (844) 786-8229.

        Reply
        • Cathy

          My husband and I bought a whole life insurance policy with Prudential on our son when he was 4 years old and now 30. At 21 it it’s supposed to be his,but he has never made a monthly payment on it every I have been paying it,the payment book still comes to my house with his name on it. How ever my husband and son got into it over the holidays and has said he is not our son anymore and will probably change his name,I don’t know what to do. Can we legally cash out this policy since I have the original policy in hand and have been paying for the premium?

          Reply
          • Natasha Cornelius, CLU

            Cathy, I’m sorry to hear about your family’s recent struggle. I recommend that you call Prudential’s customer service line at 1-800-778-4357. They will be able to help you with the specifics of your son’s policy.

  9. MKH

    My father took a whole life policy out on me when I was 2 years old. I am not even sure if the agency is exists. Is there a way to find old companies that aren’t populating in google?

    Reply
  10. Angie besonen

    My dad purchased a policy through state farm for the last four children in my family. .each being 10000$ .but my policy being one that will have cash value.and payback of premiums. Before my father passed away he gave me my folder with my policy info and said this is yours now u can keep paying or cash out the premiums if u need it .I am a disabled adult with two almost grown children. Since he’s passed my family has his his will and sold off all property of mine and all my father’s assets besides the house that is paid up to be split between the nine of us .well seven now, my two siblings died since my dad passed.and my closest youngest brother has illegally sold and fraudulently transfered titles on my dad’s cars to vs boats antiques, CDs bank accts cash atvs and now he has cashed my deceased brothers SSI checks and has some stuff still in my dad and brother’s name.hes pawned most of my belongings since the house was miy home till my dad passed then I moved out to take care of my family but my dad wanted all these things to stay in family as family home.if sold to be split equally. Now my brother and daughter have been living i my house and ruining anything left of my parents. The only thing I have left is that policy which I need.my brother put his name on policy as owner somehow.state farm said it may be cuz his name was the same as my dad’s with a Jr at the end..my daughter is stealing my policy bills and letters and said she thinks it should go to her. My dad left her plenty including a stock acct and they both live free in that house.my policy is paid up and has cash value and dividends. And I’m able to cash out on thirty yrs of premiums .they are greedy and I don’t know what to do.i have copy of will. And my daughter has another copy but she has hidden it too so estate couldn’t be split . He doesn’t let any of us in the house and he smoking drugs in there.hes sold everything and my dad was my best friend he didn’t want this.whag do I do.i want to show someone this will and prove he’s been committing fraud and that he stole and pawned to hear things before probate could see fit to distribute.when my brother died try took all his stuff sold it took his policy death brnifit and didn’t even have a funeral or an urn or services .just cremated him put him in a box.please help me get justice and how can state farm be so lax about who they give info otlr ownership of over the computer with no I’d or proof of anything.they get loan on my acct and the owner was my dad till he gave me my policy then they faxed request to change when they heard it worth money and I didn’t realize they were running around stealing from me. My daughter is greedy and spoiled and they both still getting money from my dead family’s bank accts forging names etc.

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      Angie, there is a lot going on here. I’m sorry for all the stress you’re currently under. I think the best thing would be to get in touch with an attorney who can help you gather documentation and put together a game plan.

      Reply
    • Cara Diggs

      I purchased a whole life policy on my child from Prudetial. I just received a call stating that the policy became the child’s policy at 21. I did not change the policy to my son and continue to pay for the policy. My son is now 38. The agent states that he can’t talk to me about the policy unless my son gives him permission. Is

      Reply
  11. Pat

    Good morning I called my child’s ins.. co. To check beneficiary statis and wa told my daughter was now the owner my daughter is forty-one now she no longer speaks to me, I did not transfer this too her, I have sense stop paying policy now so I have been continuing to pay since she turned 21 until now she is 41 is there anything I can do

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      Good morning, Pat. Some children’s life insurance policies automatically transfer ownership to the child when they turn 21. This may have been the case with the policy you purchased. I recommend you calling the insurance company back and asking for specifics regarding that specific policy.

      Reply
    • Amanda schwartz

      My husband’s mother took a life insurance policy out on him in his name many years ago. He is listed as policy holder but with her mailing address. We discovered this a week ago. Is this legal?

      Reply
  12. Marty thomas

    Ok so my mom …without my concent started paying my payments when I went to jail and then took my sister of as beneficiary and put herself on and I don’t even speak to her come to find out she only started taking over payments because she wanted to take out bigger loans and im always getting all saying that I am late on payment and I know the insurance is being paid so i didn’t understand why until I called and found out she had a big loan out on it …anyways my question is since I am the initial one who started the policy am I not the legal owner and if so how can I get these loans situated since I never got them and how can I block her from being able to do this again at a later date

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      Hi Marty, I need some clarification. Did you transfer ownership of the policy over to your mom prior to going to jail? Only the owner of the policy can take out loans against it and change beneficiaries. So, your mom must be the owner if she’s been taking out the loans. If you’re the rightful owner, call the insurance company and explain to them the situation. They can advise you.

      Reply
  13. holly s rains

    hi my mom whom lives in alabama i live in texas for the past 10 years has had a prudential whole life policy on me now since i was probably 4 or 5 maybe since i was born not sure but anyways i was living in ohio bout to give birth to my last child who is now going to be 21 in june and my mother calls me and says i need to meet with her/mine insurance guy and sign some papers but not to worry that if i just sign this paper when i meet with him i wouldnt have to worry about having to meet with him again because i was about to give birth and all….well years later im going thru financial problems and need some money fast to get light bill and rent paid before the lights go out and i get kicked out lol geeze for real tho well my older sister sherry lynn borrows agains hers all the time and stuff so she never signed that paper i did but neither my mom or the insurance guy explained to me or told me that i could borrow against my policy at the time or anything like that just fyi my mom and i have never really ever gotten along well or seen eye to eye on anything she calls me the out spoken black sheep of the family becuz i call a spade a spade and dont pussy foot around the truth so we bump heads quite a bit…..ive told her my financial situation and of course to her its well u got urself in the mess get urself out…my other 3 siblings for some odd reason never have a hard time borrowing money or getting loans from my mom but ive never asked her for anything cuz i didnt want to get my feelings hurt….so finally im desperate have nowhere else to turn and break down crying on the phone practically begging her for help and she has no sympothy empothy nothing she actually changed the subject to about something she was going through at the time so i just put my head down and sucked it up but while i was on phone with her and begging i asked her to let me borrow off my policy and there was never a second she even thought about letting me borrow from it,,,IT WAS A NO B4 I EVEN FINISHED THE SENTENCE OR QUESTION TO HER….ughhhhh so my question to u is she had to send me a copy of the last 2 years of payment on my life insurance policy becuz im trying to get my id and my birth cert. and ss card was stolen outta my ex’s safe and my id has been expired since 2014 from alabama well texas wants my id to continue recieving unemployment which they have paused till i get well she wasnt going to send my info on my policy thank god my daughter who still lives next to her in alabama was around and basically made her do it by using guilt or she wouldnt have even thought about it cuz i ordered a b.c. but still need another form of id to go with it and that was something i knew my mom had and i needed the info so now back to my question i dont want to upset her because we may not get along well much of the time shes been dang good to my kids and grandkids who she keep at age 69 all the time for my only daughter who has 4 kids so she can still go out and hang with friends ext…but im tired of her not being fare to me if u will and treating me a little bit like my siblings she gives and gives to them but i have to be either dying practically or have a very powerful daughter who knows how to use guilt against my mom to get her to do what she wants her to near by before she my mom will even consider at all doing anything that will help me out…so its through prudential in alabama what if anything can i do i have the policy number all those things for the policy now and when my mom sent it she attached a note saying there better not be a breach on it and i dont even know what the heck she is saying or trying to imply there so any info u can give me will surely help me please and ty in advance….

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      Holly, please call Prudential directly at (800) 778-2255.

      Reply
      • Jennifer Bael

        If something happened to me in my life ended because of my own being or a drug overdose with my kids still get my life insurance policy

        Reply
        • Natasha Cornelius

          Hi Jennifer, the answer to this question is not black and white. Insurance companies have a right to investigate death claims if a death occurs within the first two years after buying the policy. During the first two years, if death is the result of suicide, the beneficiaries will not be paid the full death benefit. If you die as a result of drug use and it’s discovered that you lied about drug use on your application, the insurance company can deny paying out death benefit claims due to what is called misrepresentation. If a drug overdose occurs and drug use was not at play when you applied for life insurance, then most insurance companies would still pay out the death benefit.

          Reply
  14. Nicole

    My father passed away a couple of months ago and I have since found in all his paperwork that he had a life insurance policy on me when I was little that I did not know about. Since he has passed away do I get anything from that policy?

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      Nicole, I’m sorry to hear about the recent loss of your father. Are you your father’s estate executor? I recommend calling the insurance company listed on the policy to find out if it’s still inforce (active). It may be paid-up and, therefore, could hold value. If the policy is no longer inforce, then it’s not worth anything to you.

      If the policy is inforce: since your father was the owner of that policy, it’s now part of his estate. The probate process will determine who ownership transfers to. Since you’re the insured, it’s likely ownership would transfer to you. You can then choose to keep the coverage or surrender the policy for its cash value, if there is any.

      Reply
  15. Tiffany

    Hi Natasha, I found you article very helpful but I do have a question. We just found out my in-laws have a policy on my husband. They are both deceased. My sister in law is the trustee of their estate and wants to transfer ownership to my husband. However, the parents took a loan against the policy and it was never paid. Do you know what happens to that? If he takes iownership and surrenders the policy, does the company just withhold the loan amount from the payout amount? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      Hi Tiffany, yes, if your husband becomes the new policyowner and chooses to surrender it, the insurance company will take what is owed from the surrender cash value before paying it out. If he does not surrender it, the interest will continue to accumulate interest unless he opts to pay it off.

      Reply
  16. Linda

    Mistake Made in 1st Post It’s 14years since the last time I heard or seen my son not the 4yrs as it stated in previous post

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      Linda,

      First of all, it is my dearest hope that you are able to connect with your son and have him be active in your life in the future. As for the policy you purchased on your son when he was a baby, you are the owner and therefore have all the rights to any cash value that has built up in the plan. If you need the money in the policy, then you can cash it out by contacting the insurance company and ask to surrender the policy (or take a loan against the policy if you need the money and can pay it back at a later time).

      Reply
      • Valinsia Johnson

        Hi my mother in law has an insurance policy on her 4 children she recently passed away due to COVID her children are not wanting to be on the policy anymore due to dis trust of the insured policy holder could each child opt out of the policy or get the policy in their own names so they can take over

        Reply
        • Natasha Cornelius

          Valinsia, if I understood correctly, your MIL owned life insurance policies on each of her four children. After her death, ownership was transferred to someone the children don’t trust. Unfortunately, because these children are not owners of the policies, they do not have control over them. If they fear for their safety, they can get in touch with the proper authorities. But, other than that, they don’t have the option to opt out or take over ownership.

          Reply
  17. Linda

    I have a policy on my since a baby he is grown now and I have not heard or seen him in 4years don’t know where he Lives or if he still living he move from our home town 14yrs ago at 19yrs old and he 34yrs old now and I still have policy what can I do can I cash it in now or what

    Reply
  18. Angela Birchall

    What if your parent has a life insurance policy on you and you don’t want them to ? Is there anything you can do ?

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      Angela, ask your parents if they would be willing to transfer ownership over to you. They aren’t required to, but some parents do this. You can even offer to pay your parents the value of the policy in exchange.

      Reply
  19. Mike

    Am I the owner of a 65 year old policy my parents bought on me when I was born?
    I just found it.
    My mom has just died and my father died 36 years ago.
    It has a cash value of $4800 and death benefit of $6800

    Reply
  20. Brenda Playforth

    I have 2 universal life policies on daughter since she was about 10..now 44..I noticed 1 of them changed her to owner instead of me..I still pay premiums ..when asked company they say it transfers after age 18…even though this jus happened about 5 yrs ago…the 2nd policy is still.listing me as owner..they don’t know why it hasn’t changed ownership..they both have about 2000 each cash value build up. Thank you

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      Some child life insurance policies are designed to automatically transfer ownership to the adult child at a certain age (often age 21). I recommend you call the policy service department of the insurance company that sold you the policies and ask for more details.

      Reply
  21. Kennette Johnson

    Hi my name is Kennette Jonnson. I am an owner of a life insurance through prudential. My mom is the beneficiary (who has passed away). I know she she purchased this policy as I was a child. The policy is active. They just contact me. What happens to that policy?

    Reply
    • Natasha Cornelius

      Hi Kennette – I’m sorry to hear you lost your mother. If you are the owner, nothing happens to the policy just because the beneficiary has passed away. It’s time to add a new beneficiary. Contact Prudential and they can help you update the policy.

      Reply

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