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Beneficiary Designation Checklist

Beneficiary Designation Checklist

Your beneficiaries are any persons to whom you leave property, cash or other valuables to including life insurance policies, IRAs and bank accounts. Naming your beneficiaries is one of the most important steps in creating an Estate Plan. No matter the asset, your needs, or your goals, listing a beneficiary who will receive or manage your assets allows you to plan the future for your earned assets and who will enjoy them when you are no longer here. Quite commonly, people elect a beneficiary and then forget about it. Yet, life changes over time, and so can your wishes for your legacy. Our 4 point beneficiary designation checklist can help you ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your death. 

At The Siegel Law Group, we work with clients who are at all stages of Estate Planning to offer comprehensive insights and the tools they need to meet their short-term and long-term objectives. Take a look at the beneficiaries you need to be taking into consideration.

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List a Beneficiary on Your Financial Products

Any type of financial solution, product, account or service you have should have a listed beneficiary. Some of the most common that should include one include:

  • Savings accounts
  • Checking accounts
  • Certificate of Deposits (CDs)
  • Life insurance
  • Retirement accounts
  • Investment accounts

In the ideal world, you are available and capable of making all decisions necessary in all areas of your management of these funds. However, there may come a time when you cannot do so. The value of your assets is added to your estate if you pass away without a beneficiary listed on your accounts. That could drive up estate taxes and may lead to miscommunications between family members.

A beneficiary designation gives the account manager, your executor or attorney specific instructions on what to do with your assets after you are gone. It names the person(s) who will take over ownership or have access to the funds within that account.

They Only Need a Death Certificate to Get to Your Money

Why are beneficiary designations so important? Today, people have numerous accounts and sometimes multiple types of the same form of account such as several checking accounts or investment accounts. Every one of them is accessible to your beneficiary who has a copy of your death certificate to show they are entitled to access your account without going through Probate. 

For example, if you do not have a Will that is up to date but you have a savings account with your son’s name on it as your designated beneficiary, your son can go to the bank after your death with a copy of your death certificate to access those funds. They may need that money to pay for funeral costs or meet mortgage payments. Similarly, if your ex-spouse is your named beneficiary on that savings account because you did not update your designated beneficiary after your divorce, they will have access to that savings account after your death. 

With a beneficiary designation on the account, there is no long wait and those funds become accessible to the person you list. This can alleviate a great deal of frustration in the period after your death, especially when all of your money is otherwise frozen. Even if these individuals do not have a will that states exactly what they are entitled to receive, this document’s beneficiary designation provides that clarity.

4 Point Beneficiary Designation Checklist 

1. Make a List of All Accounts and Beneficiaries

Once you have named the beneficiary on all of your accounts, you are not done yet. You need to make sure there is a way for people to know that these accounts exist and that they are named beneficiaries on them. Here are a few suggestions for this process:

  • Create a list that outlines every account you have. Include the account number and beneficiary designation. You do not need (and should not) write down passwords to computer logins for these accounts.
  • Place that list where it can be reached. Do not put it in a bank box at your financial institution since these are sealed at the time of a person’s death and become inaccessible until Probate occurs.
  • Handwrite this list. That may seem unnecessary, but it allows for it to be clearly written by you. Even writing it on your computer is not as beneficial as documenting it in your own handwriting.
  • Give it to someone you trust. This could be your spouse or another trusted person. You want to be sure it is with someone who is properly motivated to be honest.

This alleviates many of the frustrations that often come from account management after death. With a named beneficiary clearly outlined, there is no complicated process involved.

2. Let Those on the List Know

It is also a very good idea to let the party you named as your beneficiary know that you listed them. If they do not know that you have an account at a specific bank or financial institution, they cannot access those funds. They may never get that money or it could take a very long time – and incur expenses to find you. 

By alerting them to the presence of the account, including where it is and that you listed them as a beneficiary, they are able to retrieve those funds without fail. There is no benefit in hiding this information since they only gain access at the time of your death.

3. Periodically Review and Update Your Beneficiary Designations

You should regularly review your Estate Plan, including your beneficiary designations, every 3-5 years, or when a life-changing event occurs such as:

  • birth
  • death
  • divorce
  • marriage
  • changes to your finances

Complimentary 3-Year Reviews for existing clients.
Life doesn’t stand still, and neither should your Estate Plan. The Siegel Law Group offers complimentary reviews every three years to ensure your plan and your beneficiaries continue to reflect your current wishes and adapt to any changes in your life circumstances or the law.

4. Using a Safety Deposit Box at the Bank

Safety deposit boxes at the bank are not the best option to store your valuable assets and paperwork. Safety deposit boxes at the bank are sealed in many cases at the time of a person’s death. However, you can get around this by having a trusted person as a co-signer on the box. This would allow that designated person to gain access to the box if you cannot do so for any reason.

If you are unsure about how to use any of these tools, make sure you reach out to a trusted resource on our team. Our Estate Planning Attorneys can help you create a plan that provides the protection you need.

Learn More: Uncoordinated Beneficiaries: What They Are, And What To Do About It

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Call THE South Florida Estate Planning Attorneys – The Siegel Law Group

Let us help you determine if you have all your beneficiaries listed and what updates you need to make. Our South Florida Estate Planning Attorneys are available to discuss all of your wishes and create a plan that addresses any concerns you have. We can also be the person you trust to maintain this information so that it becomes accessible at the time of your death. Set up a consultation to speak to us at length about your options.

Call our office at 561-576-6206 to schedule a complimentary consultation, or submit our online contact form to schedule a consultation today. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

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