How to tell if your life insurance beneficiary is trying to kill you

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How to tell if your life insurance beneficiary is trying to kill you

You need a beneficiary for your life insurance policy. Yes, it can be an institution like a museum or a school, but most times your life insurance beneficiary will be another person.

This makes sense. After all, the whole point of life insurance is to provide financial support, and usually this will be a loved one – family member, close friend, cat, etc.

But what if you’re leaving money to…

(Cue thunder and lightning)

...Your murderer?

What’s the critical component of any crime? Motive. There can be hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line when it comes to life insurance, and we’ve all seen more than one true crime show about a husband or mistress dying, and oh look someone just happened to be the beneficiary of a million dollars. In a fishy-smelling situation, the beneficiary is always the main suspect.

Life insurance beneficiaries are a critical part of any policy and something you should choose wisely. So here are three surefire ways to tell if your beneficiary is trying to murder you and benefit from the death benefit.

They take out a huge life insurance policy on you

"Wait," you think. "Someone else can’t take out a life insurance policy on me!"

Unfortunately, they can. And to make matters worse, it isn’t even a surefire way to tell that they’re going to murder you.

There are a lot of legitimate reasons why someone might take out a life insurance policy on you. They have to prove that they have an "insurable interest" – that is, your death would impact them in a way that life insurance would mitigate – but that covers a lot of people:

  • Business partners. Say you’re in business with someone. Whether it’s just the two of you, or you both play a vital role in a small-but-growing company, your death would probably affect the company. Your business partner can take out a policy on you to ensure that there’s enough cash to cover a transition period as the business adjusts.

  • Adult children. If you’re a grown child and your parents co-signed your student loans, they may take out a life insurance policy on you so they can cover that debt since it would transfer to them if you died. Life insurance can help financially provide for children if a parent dies, but sometimes the parent needs that protection.

  • Siblings. Do you take care of elderly and/or sick parents with your siblings? If one of you died, would the other be able to continue doing so alone? Without a sibling’s support, the survivor might need to transfer your parent to a facility or hire someone to help take care of them, and an insurance benefit could help shoulder the burden.

  • Partners. Probably the most common reason why someone would take a life insurance policy out on you: that "someone" is your partner, and they’re taking out a policy to protect your family. Whether you’re the sole breadwinner or a stay-at-home spouse who keeps up with the kids, your partner has an insurable interest.

So that’s it, right? Every business partner, parent, sibling, and spouse is a murderer-in-waiting?

Of course not. Are they probably a murderer-in-waiting? Sure. But rather than be suspicious of everyone (that can be time consuming), keep a couple of things in mind.

First, even though other people can take a life insurance policy out on you, you still have to sign the forms. So don’t consent unless you truly trust the person and they actually have insurable interest.

Second, take a look at how much the policy is worth. Calculate the life insurance need of the policyholder by looking at debt, expenses, and future plans. Since the policyholder should be someone whose life you’re fairly involved in, it shouldn’t be hard to at least ballpark this number. Then, compare the policy value with the insurance need. Is someone who needs $250,000 asking for a million dollars in coverage?

If so, find your panic room before there’s a new Lifetime movie about you.

If not, you just might be okay.

Their internet search history is full of "slayer rule" lookups

When you hear "slayer rule," do you think of this?

Note: Not the slayer rule

If so, great! That means we’re about to teach you something.

The slayer rule "prohibits inheritance by a person who murders someone from whom he or she stands to inherit." That means that if your adoring husband stands to profit from your death, he’s out of luck if he decides to murder you (and is caught, obviously).

There are some interesting caveats, though. For example, the slayer rule is an aspect of civil law, so there only needs to be a preponderance of the evidence. For the slayer rule to take effect, there doesn’t need to be proof beyond reasonable doubt or even a conviction. There are also different rules for different states; in Texas, there isn’t a slayer rule that’s as broad as in other states, but a person still can’t stand to inherit from their victim.

So check out your suspect’s browser history and see if they’ve been doing a lot of googling for slayer rules, and the applicable conditions in different states. If they’re a little too concerned about whether or not a murderer can receive money from their victim, they’re out to kill you (or they’re writing an informative-but-educational blog post on the topic).

They’ve already killed off your other beneficiaries

Did you know that you can have more than one beneficiary on your life insurance policy?

I know: even more people you need to watch out for. But, on the bright side, if other beneficiaries start to die, it could serve as an early warning sign.

You can set up multiple primary or contingent beneficiaries in a few ways. You can name multiple beneficiaries with an equal stake in your death; four beneficiaries get 25% of the death benefit each. If one dies, they each get 33%, and so on, until only one remains (also known as the Highlander rule). This gives you ample time to realize something is up.

Or you can set up a primary beneficiary with secondary beneficiaries also named in the policy. The primary beneficiary gets the entire death benefit, but if they die, the benefit is split amongst the secondary beneficiaries. This puts a big target on your primary beneficiary’s back, and it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for them to read this article, too.

You can also distribute the death benefit per stirpes, or by branch. That means your son and daughter get 50/50 stakes in the death benefit; if your son dies, his piece of the pie is split equally between his two kids, and so on. This is what starts all of the family killing drama in Game of Thrones (it’s not).

If you have multiple beneficiaries who are dying under mysterious circumstances, look at any beneficiaries who are still alive. They could be working their way through their rivals like a video game character making their way to the final boss: you.

Other obvious signs your beneficiary is trying to kill you

Okay, we’ve gone through the telltale life insurance-related hints, but there could be other clues that someone is trying to murder you. And since we’re all about reducing the risks in life here at PolicyGenius, here are a few other ways you might be able to tell if you’re in someone’s crosshairs.

They think you/they are on a game show

Game shows can be weird. Take Sokkuri Sweets, where contestants bite into everyday objects to find out if they’re really made out of candy, because why not.

So, is it really that far fetched to think that you might "accidentally" get sprayed with a weapons-grade nerve gas under the guise of being on a game show? If someone tells you they’re on a game show, or they tell you you’re a contestant on a game show and you should just go along with it, run. Unless you see Ashton Kutcher hanging around (and then, only if you’ve also seen news stories about Punk’d being revived for some reason).

They invite you to a dinner party, a la Clue

Dinner parties are a fun way to connect with old friends and make new ones. Some dinner parties are themed, like these thousand that I found on Pinterest after a single search. Then there are classics, like murder mystery dinner parties.

The hints that your normal dinner party is actually a murderous dinner party include being invited by someone you don’t know, receiving a pseudonym to protect your true identity, being blackmailed by your host, and being given weapons in the form of candlesticks, lead pipes, and revolvers.

Note: It’s important to distinguish murder mystery parties from regular dinner parties, lest you become a shut-in with no human interaction.

They seem to be taking notes during horror movies

Everyone can appreciate a classic horror movie. Who doesn’t like to see Michael Myers standing in the shadows, or that little girl from The Ring crawl out of the TV and ruin the carpeting with all of the water she brings with her?

But if you’re watching a horror movie with someone you’re suspicious of, maybe take a few minutes to watch them instead. Do they seem too intent on mimicking the antagonist? Are they asking to rewind certain parts and scribbling notes? Do they keep asking you what room you’d mostly likely lock yourself in for safety, or if you know where the circuit breaker is – you know, just in case the lights happened to go out?

Think your life insurance beneficiary is going to murder you? The good news is you can update your policy at any time to add or remove beneficiaries. In fact, it’s a good idea to sit down every year or two or when you have big life changes like when you get married, your kids have kids, or you’ve dispatched a former beneficiary who showed their hand too soon. It’s as simple as calling up your insurer.

Sure, a life insurance policy can put a target on your back. But for sociopath-free families it’s a critical piece of financial protection—well worth the risk. Visit our learning center for everything you need to know about finding a policy that’s right for you (and your sound-minded beneficiaries).

Image: Robert Engmann