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Beneficiary designations and estate planning

A frequently overlooked element of estate planning for some people in Florida might be beneficiary designations. Assets such as retirement accounts, life insurance, and corporate asset accumulation plans are passed using a beneficiary designation instead of a will or a trust. Some assets, such as a home, might involve joint or survivorship ownership.

There are a few issues that may arise as a result of neglecting these assets as part of the overall estate plan. One is that the spouse may be named as the primary beneficiary and the children as contingent beneficiaries. However, if a person is predeceased by the spouse, the assets may pass directly to the children before the person is ready for this to happen. Some people prefer for their children to reach a certain age before they receive a large lump sum.

These issues may be particularly prevalent for people who are senior executives. A significant amount of their wealth could be held in stock options or other assets that are passed by beneficiary designation. People who are creating an estate plan may want to discuss how to handle their beneficiary designations with an attorney.

There are a few other elements about beneficiary designations and estate plans in general to keep in mind. One is that beneficiary designations preempt provisions in a will. Another is that estate plans in general should be updated when there are major family changes, such as marriage, divorce, birth or death. One scenario that is not uncommon is one in which a person updates a will but not a beneficiary designation on getting remarried. If the person dies, an ex-spouse could get the asset. People who want to delay when an asset passes to children may want to talk to an attorney about creating a trust.

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Kramer A. Litvak, P.A.
226 East Government Street
Pensacola, FL 32502

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