Do you want to disinherit your loved ones? Then simply name the wrong person on your beneficiary forms. That sounds too simple, yes, but everyday individuals die leaving their financial assets to the wrong person.
When the account owner dies, the assets go directly to the beneficiaries named on the account, bypassing and overriding the will or trust. This means you need to be careful coordinating your overall estate plan. Stories are told daily of how the wrong person ended up with the financial benefits.
Take the story of the widower who remarried after the death of his first wife. Failing to change his IRA beneficiary form, upon his death his second wife was left out, no money from the IRA, and the courts now are deciding who is to receive the retirement money named to his deceased first wife.
Many types of accounts have beneficiary forms, such as U.S. savings bonds, bank accounts, certificates of deposit that can be made payable on death, investment accounts that are set-up as transfer on death, life insurance, annuities and retirement accounts.
Job changers and retirees need to remember beneficiary designations do not carry over when you roll your 401(k) to a new plan or IRA.
You have many options in naming your beneficiaries. They can be individuals, trusts, charities, organizations, your estate or no one at all. You can name groups, such as, all my living great-grandchildren who survive me. Make sure the beneficiary form allows you to pass assets “per stirpes,” meaning, equally among the branches of your family.
Let’s say you are leaving your life insurance to your four children. One predeceases you. Without the “per stirpes” clause the three remaining children would divide the death proceeds. With the “per stirpes” clause the deceased child’s share would pass down to his children, your grandchildren.
There are situations where you do not want to name someone as a beneficiary. Avoid leaving assets to minors outright.
This creates the process of having a court appointed guardian to care for the assets until the age of 18 in most states. Many stories are told of young men and women who turn age 18 obtain the assets and going on a spending spree with nothing to show in return. A better approach would have been to have set up trusts for the minor heirs, have the trust as the beneficiary of the assets and then have the trust pay the money to the heir’s overtime after they reached legal age.
Also, avoid naming disabled individuals as beneficiaries. This can cause them to lose and forfeit all government benefits they receive. Instead setup a “special needs” or “supplemental needs” trust. This preserves their ability to continue to receive the government benefits.
Updating and changing beneficiary forms is quite simple. Just contact the financial institution that hold your accounts.
First request a copy of your current beneficiary designation and a blank copy to make any changes or updates. Remember to keep a copy of all current beneficiary forms. Often financial institutions merge and records can be lost. Don’t assume everything is accurate.
As in all matters concerning your estate please consult with competent legal, tax and financial professionals.