Many assets today are transferred at death through a beneficiary designation for assets such as IRAs, 401(k)s or 403(b)s, life insurance policies, annuities, or other pension or non-typical retirement plans. If you do not designate a beneficiary and make updates when needed, you may unintentionally disinherit loved ones.
Here are 6 Reasons to Review Beneficiary Forms
1. Your will alone is not sufficient to clarify your intended beneficiaries; beneficiary designations will typically supersede what is in a will.
2. Update beneficiaries when life changes occur, such as marriage, birth of a child, divorce, or a death in the family.
3. Have a “plan B” or contingent beneficiary in case your primary beneficiary predeceases you. If you don’t, it usually falls to the court to decide who should receive your assets.
4. Don’t take it on faith that your beneficiary form with your IRA’s investment company, your employer’s 401(k), or the life insurance company is still on file after 20 years. I like the old axiom: Trust, but verify. Get copies or simply submit updated forms.
5. Failing to name a beneficiary on an IRA, or naming your estate, may subject your heirs to an otherwise avoidable tax burden and hassle. It could deprive them of the ability to maintain the assets in a tax-deferred vehicle, and let it grow over their lifetime (sometimes called a stretch IRA).
6. For life insurance, be sure to name an individual or trust rather than your estate as beneficiary to help avoid costly, complicated probate.