The typical example is an ex-spouse getting all your retirement savings. However, what if you have a child with an opioid addition, you die, and he or she inherits hundreds of thousands of dollars—that vanish in less than a year?
The assets that you own can be passed to your family members in three basic ways: title of ownership is transferred, you name them to inherit assets in your will, or they are the designated beneficiaries named on your various banking and investment accounts and insurance policies.
Many of our assets are transferred through this beneficiary designation, yet we don’t spend enough time tracking and updating these names.
When’s the last time you’ve reviewed your beneficiaries? This question was explored in a recent InsideNoVa article, “Naming Beneficiaries: A Quick Tip to Reduce the Surprise Factor.”
For example, if your checking account is titled in your spouse’s and your name “with rights of survivorship” (WROS), you effectively co-own the account. That one should be all set, at least until the surviving spouse dies.
Your will instructs your executor on the transfer of any assets that aren’t transferred by title or contract. That’s probably at least some of your estate. Therefore, if you don’t have a will, make an appointment with an estate planning attorney to make sure you have this important document.
Next, the beneficiary designation contacts for assets like your retirement accounts, pension plans and insurance policies should be reviewed when there’s a life event, like a birth or adoption of a child, a divorce, or a marriage.
Start the process by identifying all the accounts you own, including life insurance policies, annuities, and the like that will pass by beneficiary designation. You should then see who the primary and contingent (secondary) beneficiaries are for each. You can usually assign percentages to your beneficiaries. Therefore, you could name your spouse as primary beneficiary, 100%. Your siblings could then be secondary beneficiaries in equal shares.
Some contracts allow you to have your funds be distributed “per stirpes.” In that case, if you name your three children as primary beneficiaries, they each would receive a third. However, if your eldest son dies with you, with per stirpes, his share will go to his children.
In addition, there may be situations when you might designate a trust as a beneficiary. This can get complicated, so work with an experienced trust and estate attorney.
Don’t overlook this detail, as it can have a very big impact, and not always for the good, on your family and loved ones.
Reference: InsideNoVa (October 26, 2018) “Naming Beneficiaries: A Quick Tip to Reduce the Surprise Factor”