Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary
A person, organization, or institution that receives property through a will, trust, or insurance policy when the first named beneficiary is unable or refuses to take the property. For example, in his will Jake leaves his collection of sheet music to his daughter, Mia, and names the local symphony as alternate beneficiary. If Mia dies before Jake or if Mia decides to disclaim the gift, the manuscripts will pass directly to the symphony. In insurance law, the alternate beneficiary, usually the person who receives the insurance proceeds because the initial or primary beneficiary has died, is sometimes called the secondary or contingent beneficiary.