Justin Raber Attorney at Law

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Make sure beneficiary designations are correct in estate planning

Many West Virginia residents have life insurance policies and accounts at banks, brokerage firms or retirement investment firms. These types of accounts are frequently included in an individual's estate planning portfolio. Financial experts stress the importance of ensuring that one's beneficiary designations for every account is correct and up to date.

Analysts share situations when investors failed to update specific accounts. Upon the investors' deaths, life insurance benefits and pension benefits have gone to people not likely intended by the deceased. This is often because there was either no beneficiary designated or names had not been changed after significant life events. Courts tend to rule that the beneficiary designations take precedence over what is stated in a will.

It is imperative that a person addresses his or her personal circumstances and make changes to beneficiary designations as needed. The changes don't necessarily have to be driven by major life events. An individual could decide to leave more of an estate to one child than to another, for example. Married couples are advised to name secondary beneficiaries as one spouse typically dies before the other.

Naming a beneficiary on specific accounts can also help someone avoid probate. Money from an estate goes by operation of law to the designated beneficiaries. To avoid complications, it is recommended to review beneficiary forms annually unless major life events occur.

Estate planning should be an ongoing process for most West Virginia residents, regardless of the size of their estate. A knowledgeable attorney can help clients tailor a plan specific to their needs. An experienced lawyer will work to ensure that someone's hard-earned assets are protected and distributed as intended in the future.

Source: marketwatch.com, "Make this estate planning move right now: Check your beneficiary designations", Bill Bischoff, June 30, 2017

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