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Keep Beneficiaries Current

In estate planning, ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes is paramount. Beneficiary designations, often overlooked yet essential components of this process, dictate who inherits your retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other designated assets. However, neglecting to update these designations after significant life events can have unintended and potentially disastrous consequences. 

Why beneficiary designations supersede wills? 

It’s crucial to understand that beneficiary designations supersede your will. This means that if your designations haven’t been reviewed and updated following a major life change, such as marriage, divorce, or the birth of a child, your assets may be distributed in a manner contrary to your current wishes. For instance, an outdated designation listing an ex-spouse as a life insurance beneficiary could result in a significant payout to someone no longer intended to inherit those funds. 

Benefits of maintaining current beneficiary designations 

  • Ensures accurate distribution: Regular reviews guarantee your assets are distributed precisely as you intend, ensuring your legacy aligns with your evolving desires. 
  • Expedites asset transfer: Beneficiary designations bypass probate, a legal process that can delay the distribution of your assets to your intended beneficiaries. 
  • Provides financial security for loved ones: Timely updates ensure your loved ones have the financial resources they need during a difficult time. 

Taking action: A proactive approach 

  • Schedule regular reviews: Integrate annual reviews of your beneficiary designations into your financial planning routine, particularly following significant life changes. 
  • Consolidate information: Compile a comprehensive list of all accounts with beneficiary designations, including retirement plans, life insurance policies, and any other relevant assets. 
  • Contact account providers: Each financial institution likely has its own update process, which may involve online forms, mailed paperwork, or contacting a representative directly. 
  • Consider contingencies: Designate secondary beneficiaries in case your primary beneficiary predeceases you. This ensures your assets are distributed as intended even in unforeseen circumstances. 
  • Seek professional guidance: For complex estates or situations requiring specialized knowledge, consult with an attorney to ensure a watertight estate plan that reflects your current wishes. 

By proactively maintaining current beneficiary designations, you are taking control of your legacy and providing peace of mind for yourself and your loved ones. It’s a simple, yet crucial step that can prevent unnecessary complications and ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes. 

About This Author


Alpine Bank Staff

Alpine Bank is an independent, employee-owned organization with headquarters in Glenwood Springs and banking offices across Colorado’s Western Slope, mountains and Front Range.

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