For the sake of your loved ones it's usually better to name a beneficiary on your life insurance policy. If the proceeds of your life insurance go to your estate and get tied up in probate, it could be months before your family is paid the death benefit - and a lot can have happened in that time.
Pay careful attention to how you designate the beneficiary of your life insurance policy. If you want your wife or husband to get the proceeds of your life insurance, you should not just say "wife" you should say the name. Why? If you have a previous wife that person could receive the life insurance benefits.
If you pick a beneficiary, for your life insurance policy, ensure you keep it up to date. For instance, if your children are named on your life insurance policy, be sure to update it as children are born or adopted into the family (What a disaster if someone is missed!).
While you should review your life insurance beneficiary designation frequently, it is also helpful to designate a second beneficiary. In this case, if your wife was the beneficiary and you died just before she died, as a result of a car accident for instance, there would be no one to receive the funds from your life insurance policy. You guessed it - the estate gets tied up in probate court and you are lucky if your kids inherit a small portion of the original amount of the life insurance (after Lawyer's fees etc. have eaten-it-up).
For more information regarding life insurance check out the following pages: Life Insurance, Why do I need life insurance, How do I decide what I need, What types of life insure can I get, Permanent life insurance, Whole life insurance, Universal life insurance, Term life insurance, Other types of life insurance and don't forget to check out the How can I reduce life insurance costs page.