The importance of staying on top of beneficiary designations

South Carolina residents and others are encouraged to examine their beneficiary designations on a regular basis. Doing so may help to ensure that assets go to a close friend, family member or preferred charitable cause as opposed to going to an ex-spouse or estranged adult child. It is important to understand that a beneficiary designation trumps the language included in a will as it relates to who inherits a given asset.

Individuals who change jobs are not required to rollover a 401(k) from a previous employer into an IRA. However, it is important to make sure that the beneficiary designations on those older accounts are updated regularly. As a general rule, they should be reviewed anytime a will is reviewed or when major life events such as a marriage of divorce take place.

It may be worthwhile to prepare for the possibility that a beneficiary passes before the owner of an asset does. Naming alternate beneficiaries or taking other proactive action may prevent lawsuits or hard feelings between family members. Ideally, individuals will keep records of any changes that have been made to a beneficiary designation either online or by email. Those who receive mail from a 401(k) or other account administrator should keep copies of the letters or documents that they receive.

Those who have questions about how beneficiary designations impact an estate plan may want to consult with an attorney. An estate planning professional may be able to help an individual create, review or alter this type of document in a timely manner. Legal counsel may also be able to help a person create or alter a will, trust or other estate plan documents. Taking these steps might help prevent family conflicts or other issues after a person passes.