When updating my benefits, how should I assign beneficiary percentages? The way I have it setup currently is:

  • Spouse: 100% / Primary
  • Child-1: 34% / Contingent
  • Child-2: 33% / Contingent
  • Child-3: 33% / Contingent

What happens if an accident occurs involving me, my spouse and one child?

  • Mostly this: policygenius.com/blog/…
    – Hilmar
    May 5, 2018 at 22:48
  • The way we do it here: you summarize the link in an answer of your own. Not just throw out a link (to a pretty great explanation). Unless of course, you were driving when you posted the comment. May 6, 2018 at 19:40
  • @JoeTaxpayer: Noted. This seemed like a really good answer to the questions and me summarizing was likely to do more harm than good. I'll do it differently next time
    – Hilmar
    May 7, 2018 at 15:40
  • Is this about beneficiaries of a will, or of, say, a life insurance policy? For a will, you would typically include a clause (or word the original) so that if the spouse has died, the benefits go equally to the surviving children. For an insurance policy, I guess you would have to ask the company if they can accommodate a clause of that nature.
    – TripeHound
    May 8, 2018 at 10:16

2 Answers 2


The surviving children effectively inherit the entire sum, sharing it equally, or nearly equally if Child-1 is a survivor. If the children are not adults, there would need to be a guardian appointed by the court probating your estate.

Unless you have a particular reason for giving a little extra to Child-1 (Number One Son, maybe?), consider changing the percentages to 33+1/3 % each, or saying something like "My children in equal shares", or even better yet, "My descendants in equal shares per stirpes" so that you don't need to change things if Child-X passes away before you do leaving behind grandchildren, who will inherit Child-X's share, instead of being left out in the cold by their uncles/aunts who survive Child-X and inherit it all from you if you simply say "My children in equal shares."


The allocation that you have proposed is rather straightforward and will will self adjust in the event of demise of one or more family members. For a situation with far more beneficiaries, you can create a self adjusting formula. Here's a rough idea of what I did.

I allocated units to family, friends and charities. For example (made up numbers), an immediate family member might get up to 15 units. A cousin, friend or charity might get 1/2 to one unit. The maximum value that a unit can be worth is $20k.

Upon my demise, they'll tally what my estate is worth as well how many beneficiaries are still alive (which determines the total number of units). Divide the latter into the former. If the unit is worth less than $20k, disburse everything. If more than $20k, spread the excess among some secondary beneficiaries (charities) as per another allocation of units.

For some of the recipients, their total allocation is spread over 5-10 years because I don't want them to receive a large lump sum (unless a unit is worth less than $5k and then, they get the lump sum immediately). Because of the formula, everything is self adjusting, keeping the ratio of bequathals in proportion for the many recipients, regardless of who's alive when I kick the bucket.

The only time I have had to update this is if someone really pisses me off and needs to be forgotten (g) or if my net worth significantly improves, making the $20k unit limit invalid. I've only done a couple of amendments in 20+ years.

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