It’s a common mistake to believe that because you have a will, you don’t need to name beneficiaries for your other financial accounts such as IRAs and other retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and annuities. After all, your chosen heirs will get them in the end, right?
Not necessarily. It’s worth checking to see who is currently named as the beneficiaries of these accounts. You may have designated them so long ago that you’ve forgotten. But it’s important to note that even if you have a will, beneficiary designation on the account overrides a will. So you might just be leaving your IRA to an ex-spouse or family member who has passed away, or only your older children and not your younger ones.
Despite the wording of your will, the individual named as a beneficiary of your accounts will receive that money, even if the designation was made years or decades ago. Your will only covers the distribution of your assets included in the probate estate.
Take A Few Moments to Check the Beneficiary Designation
Aside from the fact that your beneficiary designation may be out of date, it’s possible that you never actually named a beneficiary. This means that after you pass away, your estate will become the beneficiary. Unfortunately, at that point, the money will become subject to the long and expensive probate process, which may leave your heirs waiting a long time to inherit.
It’s also important to name contingency beneficiaries to your accounts. This means that if your first beneficiary were to die before you (or at the same time as you in, say, an accident) the money would then pass on to the contingency beneficiary or beneficiaries. If you have children, this is a good way to ensure that the money will go to them if you and your spouse were to die at the same time.
Examine the Wording of Your Beneficiary Designation
You may have nebulous language in your beneficiary designation that leaves benefits for your “children.” If you don’t name them specifically, the inheritance issue could become murky, particularly if you have a blended family. Be sure to name each beneficiary specifically to avoid complexities and family arguments, and to understand what the term “per stirpes” means. It’s also worth designating contingent beneficiaries for each of your children in case they were to predecease you. Also, avoid designating one child as a beneficiary under the assumption that he or she will share the money with their siblings. The designated beneficiary has no legal obligation to do so.
Seek Professional Advice
Good estate planning helps protect your family and your beneficiaries. Look for a financial services firm that will stress-test your estate to make sure you’re addressing all aspects of your death benefits. The end result is an evolving plan that helps protect your family and friends.
At Toomey Investment Management, Inc., we are a dual registered, Independent RIA. This means that we retain the independence and flexibility to associate with a number of broker-dealers/custodians to can offer a range of products or services. We believe our business model best enables our comprehensive and objective approach as financial fiduciaries. If you feel like we would be a great match for you and your family, please call us at 203-949-1710 or visit our website for more information.