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Beneficiary designations: Periodically revisit and stay current

Don't be surprised during a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney if talk turns to beneficiary designations. Many people flatly fail to think about the persons they have selected to receive assets from various sources. Sometimes they insert a name and never revisit the matter, notwithstanding a passage of years and highly modified circumstances. Sometimes they fail to even consider the matter, providing for no beneficiary all.

Not being accurate and up to date on beneficiary details can have unanticipated results, often of an extreme magnitude.

Consider the following, for example. A spouse states in his or her will that certain assets will go to the current spouse in the event of death. Upon death, though, it is revealed that a former spouse is listed as the beneficiary in documents that control those assets.

Former spouse prevails, notwithstanding the will.

That outcome happens with undue regularity in instances where beneficiary designations are not occasionally revisited and kept current.

“Beneficiary designations that are inconsistent with your will can wreak havoc on a well-structured estate plan,” says one wealth manager.

That cautionary alarm can hardly be overemphasized.

A proven estate planning lawyer will ensure that any client pays due heed to beneficiary designations, knowing that being accurate is vital to the ultimate implementation of a desired estate plan. Beneficiaries loom large across a wide spectrum of accounts, plans and policies, including things like these: company-sponsored retirement plans; life insurance policies; IRAs; savings and checking accounts; annuities and mutual funds.

Here’s the point. People divorce. They have children and add grandkids. They enter extended families.

In short, they need to pay attention to beneficiaries, because life changes.

A seasoned estate planning attorney can help them do that.

Source: Forbes, "The big estate-planning goof you may be making," Harper Willis, Dec. 16, 2013

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