Designating beneficiaries for your assets is an important aspect of estate planning. In this guide, we will discuss the process of naming beneficiaries for various types of assets, and provide tips on how to ensure your wishes are carried out as intended. Whether you're in the early stages of estate planning or looking to update your existing plans, this guide will help you make informed decisions.
For experienced estate planning attorneys, reach out to Heritage Law Office. Our knowledgeable attorneys will guide you through the process and ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Contact us online or at 414-253-8500 to schedule a free consultation today.
What is a beneficiary?
A beneficiary is an individual or entity that is designated to receive assets or benefits from a person's estate, insurance policy, retirement account, or trust. The person who designates the beneficiary is often called the grantor, owner, or policyholder.
Types of Assets and How to Name Beneficiaries
To designate a beneficiary for your bank accounts, you can set up a payable-on-death (POD) account. This allows your chosen beneficiary to receive the funds in the account upon your death without going through probate.
Retirement accounts such as 401(k)s, IRAs, and pension plans typically allow you to name a beneficiary directly on the account. Contact your account provider to obtain and complete the appropriate beneficiary designation form.
Life Insurance Policies
Life insurance policies allow you to designate one or more beneficiaries to receive the policy proceeds upon your death. To name a beneficiary, complete the beneficiary designation form provided by your insurance company.
To transfer real estate to your beneficiaries, consider setting up a transfer-on-death (TOD) deed. This legal document allows you to designate a beneficiary who will automatically inherit the property upon your death, bypassing the probate process.
For investment accounts such as stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, you can set up a transfer-on-death (TOD) registration. This allows your chosen beneficiary to inherit the assets without going through probate.
Tips for Naming Beneficiaries
Clearly identify your beneficiaries by providing their full legal names, Social Security numbers, and addresses to avoid confusion and potential legal disputes.
Keep Your Designations Up-to-Date
It's important to review and update your beneficiary designations periodically, especially after major life events such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child.
Consider Contingent Beneficiaries
Name contingent beneficiaries in case your primary beneficiaries predecease you or are unable to inherit the assets. This ensures your assets are distributed according to your wishes.
Seek Professional Guidance
Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure your beneficiary designations align with your overall estate plan and comply with applicable laws.
How an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help
An estate planning attorney can help you:
- Understand the various types of assets and their unique considerations.
- Draft appropriate legal documents such as wills, trusts, and beneficiary designation forms.
- Ensure your beneficiary designations are consistent with your estate plan.
- Keep your estate plan up-to-date and compliant with current laws.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney
If you need assistance with naming beneficiaries for your assets or have other estate planning concerns, Heritage Law Office is here to help. Our experienced attorneys will work closely with you to create a customized estate plan that meets your needs and wishes. To get started, contact us online or call us directly at 414-253-8500.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What is the importance of naming beneficiaries for my assets?
Designating beneficiaries is a crucial step in estate planning as it directly determines who will inherit your assets after your death. If you don't name beneficiaries, your assets may be distributed according to state law, which may not align with your wishes. Moreover, named beneficiaries often avoid probate, a time-consuming and potentially costly process of distributing assets.
2. How often should I update my beneficiary designations?
It is recommended to review and update your beneficiary designations periodically, preferably once a year. Additionally, you should revisit your beneficiary designations after major life events such as a marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or the death of a named beneficiary. Regular updates ensure your designations align with your current intentions.
3. Can I name more than one beneficiary for an asset?
Yes, you can designate multiple beneficiaries for an asset. You can split your asset amongst several individuals or entities in specified percentages. Additionally, you can also name contingent beneficiaries who will inherit the assets if the primary beneficiaries predecease you or are unable to inherit the assets.
4. What is the role of an estate planning attorney in naming beneficiaries?
An estate planning attorney can guide you through the complex process of naming beneficiaries, making sure your designations align with your overall estate plan and comply with applicable laws. They can also help you understand unique considerations associated with various types of assets and assist you in drafting appropriate legal documents, like wills, trusts, and beneficiary designation forms.
5. What happens if I don't name a beneficiary?
If you don't name a beneficiary, your assets will typically go through probate, a legal process through which an estate is settled and assets are distributed. This process can be lengthy and expensive. In the absence of a named beneficiary, the court often distributes assets according to state intestacy laws, which may not align with your personal wishes.