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Beneficiary Designations
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Naming a beneficiary on an account promptly and easily transfers that asset to the named beneficiary at your death. Making sure that beneficiary designations are updated and recorded is probably the most important and easiest estate planning step to accomplish.

Any retirement plan, such as a 401k or an IRA, has a designated beneficiary. Annuities and life insurance also list a designated beneficiary.


Caution! If you fail to designate a beneficiary, the institution’s policies will determine where the assets go… usually to a spouse or your estate. (Assets in your estate are subject to probate and your creditors.) Failing to update your beneficiaries may mean that Mom and Dad or your ex get your assets rather than your wife or husband. The law is very clear and unfortunately it's not uncommon.  Naming minor children as beneficiaries creates its own problems, so be sure to leave these assets to a trust that is created in your Will.

Many institutions, such as banks, allow a beneficiary designation to be added to non-retirement accounts through the use of a Transfer on Death (TOD) or Payable on Death (POD) designation.

There are two types of beneficiaries: Primary and Contingent.  In addition to a primary beneficiary, it is important to name contingent beneficiaries. Take care not to unintentionally disinherit a primary beneficiary’s children.

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