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7 common mistakes to avoid when naming beneficiaries

On Behalf of | May 20, 2024 | Estate Planning

Naming beneficiaries is an important part of estate planning. Properly designating beneficiaries ensures that your assets go to the right people after you pass away.

However, many people make mistakes when naming beneficiaries, which can lead to complications and disputes. There are several common mistakes you should avoid.

1. Not updating beneficiary designations

Life events such as marriage, divorce or the birth of a child should prompt an update to beneficiary designations. Failure to update can result in assets going to an unintended person, such as an ex-spouse. Regular reviews and updates ensure that your designations reflect your current wishes.

2. Naming minor children as direct beneficiaries

Naming minor children as direct beneficiaries can create legal and financial issues. Minors cannot directly receive assets until they reach the age of majority, which can result in court-appointed guardians managing the assets. Instead, consider setting up a trust to manage the assets for the benefit of the minors.

3. Ignoring contingent beneficiaries

Many people only name primary beneficiaries and neglect to name contingent beneficiaries. If the primary beneficiary predeceases you or cannot be located, the assets may go through probate. Naming contingent beneficiaries ensures that your assets have a clear path if the primary beneficiary cannot receive them.

4. Failing to consider special needs

If you have a beneficiary with special needs, leaving them assets directly can disqualify them from receiving government benefits. Instead, consider setting up a special needs trust to provide for their needs without affecting their eligibility for benefits.

5. Overlooking beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and insurance policies

Beneficiary designations on retirement accounts and insurance policies override instructions in your will. Ensure that these designations align with your overall estate plan. Regularly review these designations to ensure they reflect your current intentions.

6. Not considering tax implications

Different types of assets can have different tax implications for beneficiaries. For example, inheriting a traditional IRA can result in taxable income for the beneficiary. Consulting with a financial advisor or estate planning attorney can help you understand and plan for these implications.

7. Naming a single beneficiary for all assets

Naming a single beneficiary for all your assets can create an imbalance and potential disputes among heirs. Consider dividing assets among multiple beneficiaries to reflect your wishes and avoid conflicts.

Avoiding these common mistakes in your estate plan can help ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and minimize the potential for disputes.