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A creditor is an individual or corporation that has loaned something of value to another individual or company with anticipation of repayment under set terms. In insurance and finance terms, a beneficiary is someone who receives a payout upon a specific incident, often the death of the policyholder. A creditor beneficiary, then, is a creditor who is listed as the debtor's beneficiary, most often on a life insurance policy or a trust fund. The purpose of such an arrangement is to ensure that the creditor gets paid and also to ensure that the debtor's family is not encumbered should the debtor pass away without paying his debt in full.
Generally speaking, a creditor beneficiary is paid before non-creditor beneficiaries. This means that, if the amount of benefit is greater than the creditor claim, the remaining benefit amount is divided among the residual beneficiaries as per the terms of the policy or trust. If, however, the amount of debt is greater than the benefit amount, the full benefit is generally assigned to the creditor.
When this happens, payment of the remaining debt balance is dependent on the terms of the credit agreement between the parties. Often, the benefit amount is considered payment in full to the creditor beneficiary. In some cases, however, the residual debt may be charged against the debtor's estate. Many such arrangements are made via a third-party contract, and terms vary from agreement to agreement. In some areas, governmental or banking restrictions may apply.
In some specialized cases, however, the full amount of the benefit is assigned to the creditor, regardless of the debt level. A common example is traditional mortgage life insurance, in which the mortgage company is the creditor beneficiary. Regardless of the then-current amount of the mortgage, it is considered paid in full if the terms of payout are met. This is usually upon the policy or trust holder's death, though additional qualifications may apply. Modified versions of mortgage life insurance pay off the then-current mortgage debt with the remainder reverting to the named secondary beneficiaries.
There are a number of financial reasons to establish a creditor beneficiary. Such an arrangement may make credit available that would not otherwise be accessible because it serves as a guarantee to the creditor that the debt will be paid, even in the event that the debtor dies without leaving a large enough estate to cover the amount owed. Such an arrangement also frees the debtor's other beneficiaries from concern, particularly in areas where an individual's debts can be transferred to a spouse or children in the event of death.