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Shillington, Pennsylvania Family Law and Estate Planning Blog

Beneficiary designations can trump a will

Posted by Rob Levengood | Aug 02, 2018 | 0 Comments

Imagine you have just finished composing your last will and testament. You might believe that your will has covered everything you want to happen after you die. However, your work may be far from over. In fact, a Pennsylvania will can actually be superseded by other documents, particularly financial documents in which you have already designated a beneficiary.

The problem with wills is that if they conflict with beneficiary designations, the designation is very likely to win. quotes a financial planner as saying that beneficiary designations are the “go-to document” when it comes time to distribute the assets of a decedent. So for instance, a person may want a child to receive all the assets from a retirement pension, but if the pension's designated beneficiary is an ex-spouse, the pension is highly likely to go to the former spouse instead.

Sometimes a person may not change a beneficiary designation because that person has counted on a financial institution to make the changes. However, another party might make a mistake and enter in the wrong name on the beneficiary form. If the forms are not properly reviewed before being signed, the wrong name might slip through.

In other instances, a person may just forget that a certain pension or account even exists. People can accumulate a variety of financial pensions, accounts and portfolios over the course of their lives. Such investments, according to Forbes, can include IRAs, Roth IRAs or life insurance policies. An individual can also set up an account that pays out its assets upon the account owner's death. In addition, workplaces provide financial support in the form of retirement benefits or insurance. After a while, it is possible for a person to forget he or she possesses one or more of these accounts or pensions.

To prevent the chance that a financial account will not pay out its assets to the right person, people should conduct audits of their beneficiary designations and track down every set of financial benefits that have been accumulated. While composing a will, a person should ensure that all beneficiary designations are coordinated with that will. These steps may have to be repeated when the will is updated or after a major life changing event such as a divorce or the death of a loved one.  

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Rob Levengood



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