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The Importance of Updating Beneficiary Designations

By June 9, 2021 No Comments

Many types of monetary accounts and insurance policies have beneficiary designations associated with them. For example, retirement accounts (including IRAs, Roth IRAs, 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, and pensions) must usually have a beneficiary designation on file. The same is true with insurance policies, such as life insurance policies and long-term disability policies.

Failing to properly designate and regularly update beneficiary designations can cause problems later on – especially when there is a separation or divorce somewhere in the picture. An experienced California estate lawyer near you can assist you with updating your beneficiary designations on a regular basis in order to ensure that your assets pass on to others in accordance with your wishes.

Who is a Beneficiary?

A beneficiary is a person who is entitled to the proceeds of an account or an insurance policy when the named account holder or policyholder passes away. For example, the beneficiary of a retirement account or pension may be entitled to the account proceeds when the account holder dies. Similarly, a beneficiary on a life insurance policy or other insurance policy is entitled to make a claim for benefits in the event the named insured passes away under certain circumstances.

When a person first opens a retirement account or takes out an insurance policy, he or she will usually be asked to designate a beneficiary on the account/policy. It is important to ensure that these beneficiary designations are updated on a regular basis, depending upon the happening of certain life circumstances.

What Can Happen When a Beneficiary Designation is Not Updated in a Timely Manner?

When beneficiary designations are not updated on a regular basis, serious complications can result. Moreover, there is a significant chance that a deceased individual’s assets will not be passed on in accordance with his or her wishes.

Updating various beneficiary designations becomes extremely important in the case of a divorce. When spouses divorce, the divorcing spouse must make sure that the former spouse is no longer a beneficiary on his or her financial accounts, retirement plans, and insurance policies. The divorcing spouse should update the beneficiary designation to name another family member – or a new spouse, in the event that he or she has remarried since the divorce. Failing to update beneficiary designations could result in the ex-spouse reaping the benefits of a retirement account, investment account, or insurance policy when the account holder passes away.

In most cases, making changes to a beneficiary designation is a fairly simple process. However, the process is different from account to account and insurance policy to insurance policy. Sometimes, the account holder can simply make the changes online or by mail. To ensure that the change is effective, you want to make sure that you comply with all of the requirements imposed by your financial institution or insurer. An experienced California estate attorney will be able to assist you with updating a beneficiary designation. Your attorney will also be able to address any questions you may have about the process.