Primary Beneficiary Definition
A primary beneficiary is a person or entity designated as the first in line to inherit an asset.
The owners of most retirement plans, annuities and life insurance policies have the right to name primary beneficiaries. They can choose people, trusts or charitable institutions, and they can name more than one primary beneficiary. Account holders also can designate the percentage of assets that will go to each primary beneficiary.
The beneficiaries of such accounts inherit the assets immediately upon the account holder's death, without going through probate court and regardless of the dictates of the account holder's will.
In many types of retirement plans, account holders need to secure their spouse's written permission before they can name someone else as the primary beneficiary.