In an often overlooked aspect of estate planning, don’t forget about the oh so important beneficiary designations. Sure, there are six basic “must have” estate planning documents, but beneficiary designations (sometimes called PODs and TODs) on accounts actually trump whatever is written in your will.
Savings and checking accounts, life insurance, annuities, 401(k)s, pensions, and IRAs are all transferred via beneficiary designations.
For example, let’s say Jane passes away. Her will states that all her property should go to her brother, but her 401k lists as beneficiary an ex-husband. Guess what? The proceeds of the 401k will go to the ex-husband because he was listed as the designated beneficiary, despite the fact that Jane intended her 401k to go to her brother.
To avoid unfortunate situations such as our hypothetical, make sure that designations are correctly filled out and supplied to the appropriate institution. Of course, remember to keep these beneficiary designations current as well.
Checking your beneficiary designations is a smart estate planning step you can take today. But, of course, you’re going to need a solid estate plan to account for all of your assets that are not transferred via beneficiary designation. A great way to get your key estate plan documents started is by downloading my free, no-obligation Estate Plan Questionnaire. You can also contact me by phone (515-371-6077) or email with any questions or concerns.