By Attorney, Philip J. Kavesh

reviewing beneficiary designation forms for estate planning torranceThere are certain assets that you may have where you, as the account owner, completed a form called a Beneficiary Designation Form (“BDF”) that will determine who will receive all or a portion of the assets upon your death.  Such accounts include IRAs and other retirement accounts, annuities, and even bank and brokerage accounts.

You may not realize that these beneficiary designations can override your Living Trust or Will, passing assets to unintended persons, or in the wrong amounts or wrong manner.  These beneficiary designations should be reviewed periodically to make sure that they are up-to-date and align with your current estate plan wishes.  Furthermore, if you own these assets and there is no named surviving beneficiary, your loved ones may wind up in Probate Court, which is both a lengthy and expensive process that can be easily avoided.

Below are some of the steps you may wish to take to ensure that your beneficiary designations are properly up-to-date.

STEP #1: List All of Your Assets and Accounts

First and foremost, make a list of all of the accounts that you own.  This will help you identify which accounts may require some form of beneficiary designation.

STEP #2: Contact Your Account Administrator

If you have an online account for an asset, you may be able to log into your online account and locate a list of your current beneficiary designations.  If not, you may need to call your financial advisor, insurance agent, banker or account administrator to have a copy of your current beneficiary designations sent to you (or reviewed by phone with you).

STEP #3: Review Your Beneficiary Designations

Once you have access to your beneficiary designations, take a moment to review each one to ensure that you have properly designated beneficiaries.  Some of your accounts may appropriately list your Living Trust as beneficiary to follow the beneficiary distribution you have designated in your Living Trust.  If you have an IRA Inheritance Trust®, and have IRAs or retirement plans it may be better to list the IRA Inheritance Trust® or its subtrusts set up for the benefit of each beneficiary.  You should check the instruction letters your estate planning attorney gave you when you set up or last revised your estate plan.

If you are a client of ours and are unclear as to whether your beneficiary designations are set up as they should be to ensure that your estate plan is properly administered, this is something that our law firm can assist you with during your free 3-year review checkup meeting.  This brings us to…

BONUS STEP #4: Make Sure Your Estate Plan is Also Properly Up-to-Date

If you have an estate plan (prepared by us or not), and you have not had your estate plan reviewed in the past 3 years, contact our office at 1-800-756-5596 and we can assist you in setting up a free review meeting with an attorney.  During that meeting, we can review your estate plan to ensure that it is up-to-date with your wishes, changes in the law and the newest planning techniques.  During that review meeting, we also can check your asset titles and your beneficiary designations to be sure they correctly reflect your estate plan.

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