Our blog provides education and information on estate planning issues to help you keep you informed on new developments in this area of law. Please note that information in this blog and website is informational only and is not legal advice.
If you have ideas for blog posts, feedback on current posts, or would like to reproduce and attribute any of these blog posts, I'd love to hear from you.
Certain types of assets pass to your loved ones by “beneficiary designation” outside of your estate plan. This means that when you die, these assets go to whomever you have listed as the beneficiary of your account, rather than according to the distribution provisions in your Will or Trust.
The most common examples of these types of assets are retirement accounts, life insurance policies, pay on death accounts, and any assets held in “joint tenancy” or titled as “joint.” When you set up these types of accounts, you designate primary and contingent beneficiaries. The primary beneficiary is first in line to inherit the asset after you die. The contingent beneficiary will inherit if the primary beneficiary cannot.
If you are like the majority of people, after you first set up these accounts, you rarely think about who you designated as the beneficiaries. Because these accounts pass outside of your estate plan, however, it is important to review these designations as part of the estate planning process to ensure they match your current wishes. Without taking this step, your estate plan may not work as you intended.
The following examples show how failing to review beneficiary designations can undermine an estate plan:
Who you should designate as the beneficiaries of your accounts depends on your unique estate plan. Here are a few examples of how these assets are typically designated: