If you have made will, you know the importance of making your asset distribution clear so no confusion for your family members. But have you made an insurance nomination previously? Do you remember who were the beneficiaries? Do you need to revoke the nomination before the instruction in the will takes effect?


In general, your Will overrides the insurance nomination made under your Insurance Policy. But this will not work in two scenarios:

  1. If your insurance nomination creates a Nomination under Section 49L Insurance Act or
  2. You have made a specific assignment.

Understand implied trust

A “Nomination under Section 49L Insurance Act”, in a layman’s term, is an irrevocable nomination. When I say irrevocable, it means that you have “given” the insurance benefits to your named beneficiaries and “vowed” that you will never take it back. So it is understood that this cannot be voided by a will.

However, like all matters in personal finance, things are not always so simple as we wish. This is because there was NO Section 49L Insurance Act before 1 September 2009, when the new Nomination of Beneficiaries Framework was introduced.

For all the policies sold before that date, the nomination of beneficiaries was governed by either

  • Section 73 of the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act (CLPA) or
  • Section 45 of the Co-operative Societies Act (CSA) for NTUC Income life policyholders.

Prior to September 1, 2009, if the nominated beneficiaries are spouse or children, an “implied trust” is created and thus cannot be voided by a Will. The court had ruled that when a Policyholder named his or her spouse and/or children as beneficiaries, the beneficiary(ies) became the subject of an “irrevocable trust” under Section 73 of the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act (CLPA).

In other words, the policy effectively became the property of the beneficiary, protected by legislation designed to ensure that family members, not creditors, benefit from such funds.

Now ask yourself, how many of you have bought insurance policies before 2009? Not all people have indicated their beneficiaries in their insurance applications, but I am sure that there were hundreds of thousands of policies under Section 73 implied trust, and these policy owners may not even be aware of that because the creation of the trust was without a trust deed, i.e. no formalities.

Should you use a will to override your insurance nomination

Even if you have made a revocable nomination after September 1 2009. I won’t advise you to “override” it by a will. The best practice is to write to your insurer to formally revoke the nomination to avoid any confusion or dispute in the future.

Do you have a policy with irrevocable nominated beneficiaries under Section 73?

About the Author

Ivan Guan is the author of the popular book "FIRE Your Retirement". He is an independent financial adviser with more than a decade of knowledge and experience in providing financial advisory services to both individuals and businesses. He specializes in investment planning and portfolio management for early retirement. His blog provides practical financial tips, strategies and resources to help people achieve financial freedom. Follow his Telegram Channel to join the FIRE community.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. This does not reflect the official position of any agency, organization, employer or company. Refer to full disclaimers here.

  • Hi Mr Guan,
    Thank you very much for reading this.
    May I check with you regarding Section 45 of the Co-operative Societies Act (CSA) for NTUC Income life policyholders.
    I have a few Term Life policies with NTUC Income, some bought before and some after Sep 09.
    All nominations have been made solely to my elderly mother.
    If after I die and my mum also pass away shortly after me before receiving my death benefits, what will happen to the payout?
    Which estate will receive the payouts, my estate or my mum’s estate?
    Please enlighten me on how Nomination under Section 49L Insurance Act and Nomination governed by Section 45 of the Co-operative Societies Act (CSA) will practise payouts when the above situation arise.
    Thank you so so much, Mr Guan.

    • Hi, Rosaline,

      If you die, your insurance proceeds will be paid to your mum. If your mum passes away shortly after, she is still entitled to the proceeds and the payout will be under her estate.

      It doesn’t matter whether it is under section 49L or section 45 as there is no change to the beneficiary.

      Therefore, it is advisable that your mum has a will to handle her estate.

  • Hi I would like to ask what will happen if I do not have a nomination made for my life insurance policy? Can I put the proceeds of my insurance policy in my Will? Or is it compulsory to make a nomination? What is the specific statute/law that provides for this issue?

    • Hi, Winson, you can distribute your insurance proceeds using the will. Nomination is not compulsory. But do note if you will your insurance, the proceeds have to go through probate before it is distributed to your beneficiaries.

  • Hi Ivan

    I bought a policy and named my wife as the beneficiary under Section 73. She has passed away in 2005. I am aware that this policy is irrevocable. Apart from going to the High Court to remove my wife’s name as the beneficiary, is there any other way? I was told that the legal fees may amount to $10,.000 just to have my wife’s name removed.

  • Hi Ivan,

    Can i nominate a policy that was recently assigned to me? I purchases a resale endowment. Insured is someone else that i do not know. I am the new policy owner.

  • Hi Ivan,
    if my husband insurance plan is made before marriage and nominated his siblings, when he passed on would the beneficiary be for me and our children due to revocation due to marriage?

  • Hi Ivan,

    Mai I check if my Husband had bought an insurance policy on 1989, and he had named someone to be the beneficiary, will he/she get the proceeds when my Husband pass on and leaving a WILL stating that I am his sole executor and beneficiary for all his estate? Kindly please advise. Thanks.

    • Hi Janice, first, you need to check with the insurer if the policy falls under Section 73 of the Conveyancing and Law of Property Act. If so, any change of beneficiary required the consent of the original beneficiary. The will cannot override this.

  • hi, may i check, if i am a policy owner, bought NTUC vivolife for my son (insured life), according to NTUC income, i cannot make nomination to him. This is 3rd party policy, he can do nomination to any beneficiary.
    My question is, if i write will to indicate that if i pass on, my son will entitle to this policy (as beneficiary).
    Is this correct? Otherwise, what is the suggestion way to do?

    • Hi, Gillian,

      Third party policy is always tricky.

      1. Since your son is the insured and you are the policy owner, it is implied that you are the beneficiary, that is why you cannot nominate the proceed to him as the insurance is payable upon his demise.

      2. If your intention is to pass the cash value to him, you may be able to assign the policy to him when he is an adult. If he is still a minor now, it is a bit tricky and more plannings need to be arranged.

      • thanks Ivan for your prompt reply.
        Point 2, my son is adult above 21, however, i do not want to assign this policy yet. So in my WILL, I need to indicate that this VIVOLIFE policy NO. XXXXXXXX to distribute to his name. Is this a correct way?

        My concern is if i pass on, will NTUC Income recognise that this policy i bought for my son, he has the right to keep it and give to his beneficiary or to withdraw the sum in the event he terminated the policy.

        thanks again.

      • I have bought a Manlife Insurance 3 G to insured my 2 children. Yearly i receive cash coupons. Can i assign my yearly cash payout to my wife upon my death in my Will?

  • Hi Ivan,

    My friend has a life insurance policy taken out in 1999 naming his wife as the beneficiary. His wife (who is an orphan) passed away recently and they have no children. Can he now revoke the nomination so that the insurance goes to his own personal estate instead or nominate someone else? If yes, what must he do? Thank you.

    • Hi Trisha, your friend can call the insurance company to check if it was a revocable nomination. Some old policies was under section 73 which was an implied trust (meaning cannot revoke without the consent of the beneficiary). If it is revocable nomination (the insurer should know), your friend can nominate a new beneficiary.

      • What happen if insurance policy is under 73 ( irrevocable) and the beneficiary has passed on , Now can policy holder go the insurance company to change the beneficiary ( under section 73 ) to say that actual beneficiary has passed on ??


  • May i check if i can keep both will and nomination active for different purposes? Eg. Will for estate planning other then insurance payout, and nomination for insurance payout. So that the nominee can have faster access to the insurance money when the mishap happens, rather than having to wait for the process of being granted the probate. Kindly advise. Thanks.

  • Yes I know somebody who has a policy with irrevocable nominated beneficiaries under Section 73. Like you said, he does not even know that it is revocable. What happened if the couple is divorced? And the policy holder totally forgot about it and 15 years passed. As the couple has no children, they lost contact. What can one do in this situation short of spending thousands of dollars on legal fees?

    • Hi, Tina

      That is a difficult situation to deal with. You could reconsider if you still want to keep the policy now since the intended beneficiary is not the right person.

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