Your life insurance policy is a contract between you (insured) and the insurance company (insurer). The contract is filled with jargon. To the extent possible, we must understand all the terms mentioned in the policy bond (certificate). ‘Assignment’ and ‘Nomination’ are two most common terms used in the insurance world.

For instance, in the event that you plan to apply for a home loan, your home loan provider will surely use these terms. Hence, it is best to be sure and understand exactly what the terms mean before you make a decision to buy the policy.

What is assignment in life insurance?

A life insurance policy can be assigned when rights of one person are transferred to another. The rights to your insurance policy can be transferred to someone else for various reasons. The process is known as assignment.

An “assignor” (policyholder) is the person who assigns the insurance policy. An “assignee” is the person to whom the policy rights have been transferred, i.e. the person to whom the policy has been assigned.

In the event rights are transferred from an Assignor to an Assignee, the rights of the policyholder are canceled, and the Assignee becomes the owner of the insurance policy.

People often assign their life insurance policies to banks. A bank becomes the policy owner in this case, while the original policyholder continues to be the life assured whose death may be claimed by either the bank or the policy owner.

Types of Assignment

There are two ways to assign an insurance policy. They are as follows:

1. Absolute Assignment

During this process, the rights of the assignor (policyholder) will be completely transferred to the assignee (person to whom the policy rights have been transferred). It is not subject to any conditions.

As an example, Mr. Rajiv Tripathi owns a Rs 1 Crore life insurance policy. Mr. Tripathi wants to gift his wife this policy. Specifically, he wants to make “absolute assignment” of the policy in his wife's name, so that the death benefit (or maturity proceeds) can be paid directly to her. After the absolute assignment has been made, Mrs. Tripathi will own this policy, and she will be able to transfer it to someone else again.

2. Conditional Assignment

As part of this type of assignment, certain conditions must be met before the transfer of rights occurs from the Assignor to the Assignee. The Policy will only be transferred to the Assignee if all conditions are met.

For instance, a term insurance policy of Rs 50 Lakh is owned by Mr. Dinesh Pujari. Mr. Pujari is applying for a home loan of Rs 50 Lakh. For the loan, the banker asked him to assign the term policy in their name. To acquire a home loan, Mr. Pujari can assign the insurance policy to the home loan company. In the event of Mr. Pujari’s death (during the loan tenure), the bank can collect the death benefit and get their money back from the insurance company.

Mr. Pujari can get back his term insurance policy if he repays the entire amount of his home loan. As soon as the loan is repaid, the policy will be transferred to Mr. Pujari.

In the event that the insurer receives a death benefit that exceeds the outstanding loan balance, the bank will be paid from the difference between the death benefit and the loan and the balance will be paid directly to the nominee. In the above example, the remaining amount (if any) will be paid to Mr. Pujari’s beneficiaries (legal heirs/nominee).

Key Points to know Note About Assignment

In regards to the assignment, the following points should be noted:

  • A policy assignment transfers/changes only the ownership, not the risk associated with it. The person assured thus becomes the insured.
  • The assignment may lead to cancellation of the nomination in the policy only when it is done in favour of the insurance company due to a policy loan.
  • Assignment for all insurance plans except for the pension plan and the Married Women's Property Act (MWP), can be done.
  • A policy contract endorsement is required to effect the assignment.

What is nomination in life insurance?

Upon the death of the life assured, the nominee/ beneficiary (generally a close relative) receives the benefits. Policyholders appoint nominees to receive benefits. Under the Insurance Act, 1938, Section 39 governs the nomination process.

Types of Nominees

In a life insurance policy, the policyholder names someone who will receive the benefits in the event of the life assured's death. Here are a few types of nominees:

1. Beneficial Nominees

In accordance with the law, the beneficiary of the claimed benefits will be any immediate family member nominated by the policyholder (like a spouse, children, or parents). Beneficiary nominees are limited to immediate family members of the beneficiary.

2. Minor Nominees

It is common for individuals to name their children as beneficiaries of their life insurance policies. Minor nominees (under the age of 18) are not allowed to handle claim amounts. Hence, the policyholder needs to designate a custodian or appointee. Payments are made to the appointee until the minor reaches the age of 18.

3. Non-family Nominees

Nominees can include distant relatives or even friends as beneficiaries of a life insurance policy.

4. Changing Nominees

It is okay for policyholders to change their nominees as often as they wish, but the latest nominee should take priority over all previous ones.

Key Points to Note About Nomination

In regards to the nomination, the following points should be noted:

  • In order to nominate, the policyholder and life assured must be the same.
  • In the case of a different policyholder and life assured, the claim benefits will be paid to the policyholder.
  • Nominations cannot be changed or modified.
  • The policy can have more than one nominee.
  • As part of successive nominations, if the life assured appoints person “A” as the first person to receive benefits. Now, in the event of the life assured’s death after person “A” dies, the claim benefits will be given to person “B”. The benefits will be available to Nominee “C” if Nominee “A” and Nominee “B” have passed away.

What is the difference between nomination and assignment?

Let's talk about the differences between assignment and nomination.

Defining parameters Assignment Nomination


The endorsement is made on the contract policy.

The nominees' names are mentioned.

Policy Ownership

It involves transferring rights/ownership from the assignor (policyholder) to the assignee (person/entity).

Policy ownership does not change under nomination, it continues with the policyholder.


The life assured will transfer all his/her right/ownership of the policy to another person/institution.

It offers the nominee to avail claim benefits in case of death of the life assured.


The assignment might/might not support consideration.

Nomination does not support consideration.


Without a witness, the assignment will be considered invalid.

It is not required in the nomination.

Right to sue

Assignee has the right to sue the assignor of the policy.

The nominee cannot sue the policyholder of the policy.

Policy Amount

Assignee is entitled to receive the policy money.

The nominee is entitled to avail the claim benefits in case of death of the life assured


Nomination and Assignment serve different purposes. The nomination protects the interests of the insured as well as an insurer in offering claim benefits under the life insurance policy. On the other hand, assignment protects the interests of an assignee in availing the monetary benefits under the policy. The policyholder should be aware of both of them before buying life insurance.

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