Don't forget about the beneficiaries with estate plan changes

When a person buys or forms a financial account, including retirement accounts, college savings plans, and bank accounts, they likely list a beneficiary, or even a few beneficiaries. After many years, people might have life events and no longer talk to certain beneficiaries, or change their mind about the amount of money a person should receive from a certain asset.

A person might consider changing their estate plan after a major life event, such as the loss of a loved one or a divorce. While many people think about their will, beneficiary designations on these accounts are often overlooked.

These beneficiary designations might also include secondary or contingent beneficiaries. If a person doesn't put anything in these forms when opening a new account and a primary beneficiary dies, the assets would go to probate if the account owner passed away without a living beneficiary. This can cost a family money and might result in someone receiving money when that wasn't the desire of the account owner.

Estate planning attorneys can help families ensure that all of their estate planning documents line up with each other, including beneficiary designations. This can help avoid an estate from going through lengthy and costly probate procedures. If a person might not remember to change a beneficiary designation after a life event, they might want to make a habit of reviewing documents every year around their birthday, or at a regular interval. An estate planning attorney can review documents for a person and ensure they are in line with the person's wishes.

Source: Forbes, "The Big Estate-Planning Goof You May Be Making," Harper Willis, Next Avenue, Dec. 16, 2013


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