Related to the previous post’s discussion of nonprobate assets, a good estate planning attorney should discuss the client’s beneficiary designations. Most commonly, an individual will have filled out a beneficiary designation form when he or she opens a life insurance policy, retirement account, or investment account.
It is tempting to think that once a beneficiary designation has been made that no further thought need be given to it. Nothing could be further from the truth. As life changes happen – whether marriage, birth, divorce, or death – these beneficiary designations need to change to reflect the new circumstances.
Because these policies and accounts are not governed by a last will and testament, it is easy to inadvertently omit a younger child or grandchild. It is just as easy to leave a former spouse as the primary beneficiary on a policy or account. Imagine an ex-spouse receiving the bulk of your retirement assets simply because you neglected to fill out a change of beneficiary form!
An estate planning attorney will cover beneficiary designations as part of a comprehensive discussion and may also provide assistance in completing necessary change of beneficiary forms.