Possible pitfalls of setting up a payable on death account

A worrying aspect of Pennsylvania estate planning is that after you die, you have no further control over how your assets are distributed. Some people fear the uncertainty of their will going through probate and want a more direct way to leave financial assets to loved ones. This is why some Pennsylvanians opt for payable on death accounts. A POD does offer some important benefits, but be aware that using a POD account is not without possible pitfalls. 

As Investopedia points out, with a payable on death account, you can direct the balance of your account to pay out to whatever beneficiary you name upon your death. PODs are direct and simple. Once the beneficiary presents proof that you have passed away to the institution that holds your account, the beneficiary will receive the money in the POD account.

However, trouble may arise if you do not coordinate your POD beneficiaries with the rest of your estate planning. According to Forbes, someone may want to divide their property up equally among multiple children and specify so in a will, but that same person has only designated a single child on a POD account. So no matter what the will says, only the designated child shall receive the assets in the account. Even if the other children litigate the issue, courts typically rule that beneficiary designations supersede the terms of a will.

If you have multiple children, designating a single child on a POD can be awkward. Sometimes a parent may designate a single child but intend for that child to distribute the assets equally to the siblings. However, the designated child is not legally obligated to disperse the assets to family members. Even if the child is trustworthy, the other siblings may look upon him or her with suspicion or resentment, which can impact family dynamics for the worse.

To counter this problem, a parent may set up multiple accounts with each account going to a separate child. This is a pretty simple way to ensure that every intended beneficiary will receive an inheritance, although parents should make sure a child was not left out on accident. Additionally, parents can stick to one POD account but designate multiple beneficiaries, assigning them all equal shares of the balance of the account.

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