Are your beneficiary designations up to date? Do you even know which accounts have beneficiaries and who you’ve designated? It’s easy to lose track. But it’s important to keep them current. Here’s why.
When you designate a beneficiary for an account, that person inherits the assets in the account, regardless of what your will might say. That’s why updating your will periodically might not be enough. Typically, you’ll have beneficiaries for each of your IRAs, your 401(k) or other retirement plans, annuities, and insurance policies.
Your designations could be out of date just because of life’s changes. Since you made your initial choices, you might have married, had children, or divorced. Some of the beneficiaries you chose could have died, divorced, or married. Their circumstances could have changed so you no longer want them to be the beneficiary.
Also, the tax laws change frequently, and they can have an impact on your choices. Choosing the wrong beneficiary, or failing to name a contingent beneficiary, can affect the long-term value of your IRA assets after you die. That’s why it’s important to review your choices with tax consequences in mind.
Here’s how to update your designations. At a minimum, you should have copies of your beneficiary designations in one place. If you don’t, call the trustees of your retirement accounts and your insurance agent, and request copies.
Then review the documents and decide what changes you’d like to make. Make an appointment to review your decisions with your tax and estate planning advisor. Discuss matters such as naming secondary beneficiaries and naming your estate as a beneficiary (sometimes not a good idea).
Finally, send your changes to the account trustee, ask for a confirmation, and keep copies in your records. For any assistance you need, contact our office.David Bradsher, CPA