Can Institut d’Optique Graduate School be named as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy?

Contrary to common perception in financial circles and the public at large, some charities can be named as beneficiaries of life insurance policies. Recognised under French law as being of public utility, Institut d’Optique is allowed to accept life insurance policies and other bequests. Indeed, more and more donors are choosing life insurance policies as a way to support research. In France, they are preferred method of funding due to the discretion of the process as the payouts are exempt from inheritance tax.

How can I name Institut d’Optique Graduate School as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy?

It's very easy. Simply specify the beneficiary's full name and address (Institut d’Optique, 2 Avenue Fresnel, 91127 Palaiseau Cedex) in the terms of the contract. The terms should be as unambiguous as possible to ensure that the payout is distributed in accordance with the policy owner's wishes and to prevent the policy from going unclaimed.

Who should be informed about the contract terms?

The beneficiary can be named in secret at the policy owner's bank or insurance company. However, if the beneficiary learns that they are named in the contract and if they request to receive the benefits in advance of the owner's death, the owner may no longer choose a new beneficiary. Wills are another option. The notary drawing up the will is bound to keep the beneficiary's identity secret until the policy owner's death. Nevertheless, this option is generally considered complicated as it does not maintain asset secrecy and can result in major disagreements between family members.

How can I be sure that Institut d'Optique Graduate School will be informed that it is a beneficiary?

This was once a legal stumbling block. Until 2005 insurance companies were not required by law to inform a beneficiary of a life insurance policy in the event of the policy owner's death. In 2007, the French federation of insurance companies estimated that somewhere between 150,000 and 170,000 life insurance contracts totalling around € 1 billion, had gone unclaimed as a result of this. Fortunately, a French law passed in December 2005 reinforces the transparency of life insurance contracts. It requires insurers to search for a beneficiary named in a contract provided the said beneficiary's name and address are exact and the insurers have been informed of the policy owner's death. In addition, anyone who believes they are the beneficiary of an insurance contract may contact AGIRA (the French association for the management of insurance risk information) which will in turn contact the appropriate
insurance company to verify the claim.

What are the tax benefits?

Institut d’Optique Graduate School is recognised under French law as being of public utility (reconnu d’utilité publique) and is therefore exempt from inheritance tax. All amounts bequeathed to it through life insurance policies will be used in full to fund teaching and research within the school.

*occurs when a beneficiary cannot be identified or located


Françoise  Chavel
Head of Partnership Development
Tél 01 64 53 31 80