Beneficiary designations override bequests in a will

On behalf of Scaringi Law posted in Estate Planning on Friday, December 23, 2016.

Most Pennsylvanians who have estate plans know that they need to review the documents periodically to be sure they still reflect their wishes. As part of that review, a will might require updating based on changes in family structure and relationships due to life events such as marriage, divorce or the birth of a child. It can be easy to forget to update beneficiary designations to accounts such as life insurance policies and retirement accounts at the same time.

Failing to review beneficiary designations could derail other estate plans since they typically override the provisions of an individual's will. These forms are normally filled out when the account is opened. It can be easy to forget who was originally named as the beneficiary -- especially if it was years ago. With some limited exceptions, no matter what changes are made to an individual's will, whoever is named on that form receives the proceeds of the account upon death.

This is why it is crucial to review beneficiary designations at the same time as other estate-planning documents. Many retirement plans and life insurance companies make changing beneficiaries easy. In fact, it might even be possible to do it online.

After a Pennsylvania resident puts in the time and effort to create a will and other estate-planning documents, it would be unfortunate for a loved one to be denied the proceeds from an account because someone else was the named beneficiary. When it comes time to review and make any necessary changes to an estate plan, these accounts need to be part of that process. Doing so will ensure that the right person benefits from the account or policy.

Source:, "Avoid problems by updating beneficiary designations", Scott Shanks, Dec. 15, 2016


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