Have Your Heirs Changed? Time to Update Those Beneficiary Designations

It’s well worth it to look at your financial accounts if it’s been years since you have done so. Up to date beneficiary designations are extremely important because even though you hope nothing happens to you, you want the beneficiaries of your choosing to receive those assets in the event of an accident are unexpected illness.

The original people designated as beneficiaries on things like your life insurance policy or your retirement plan might have changed especially if your family structure has changed due to a marriage or divorce.

If you’re married you can almost always change the beneficiary of your accounts without getting your spouse’s permission. If you pass away during a pending divorce, for example, your accounts will almost always go to the beneficiary, not the spouse. There are exceptions to this including IRAs, other tax-deferred accounts and 401(k)s.

These require the signature of a spouse to change beneficiary because they are governed by federal law.

With online accounts, it’s a good opportunity to remind yourself when doing your taxes each year to evaluate your beneficiary designations and verify that everything is up to date. Meeting with an experienced estate planning lawyer can help you avoid many of the most common mistakes in this process.

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