Who’s your beneficiary?
One of the most important annual financial reviews you can do for yourself is a beneficiary review. Unfortunately, a lot of people only connect beneficiaries to large amounts of wealth, and consequently they neglect an important—and highly personal—component of their finances. If you own something that is important to you, chances are you have an opinion on who you would like to receive it after you’re gone; so write down your wishes and make it official.
Below is a list of common financial products, accounts, and items to keep in mind when doing a beneficiary review.
Wills and Trusts
- If you already have a will and/or trust in place, you’re doing great! But don’t forget that you’ll need to update both as your life changes. If you don’t have a will, make it a goal to put one in place. This is the best way to take care of your loved ones after your gone, to leave behind an organized inheritance.
The Usual Suspects: Individual and Employer Sponsored Retirement Plans
- If you have an individual retirement plan, such as a traditional or Roth IRA, or a company-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), chances are that you were asked to name a beneficiary when you established the plan. That being said, it’s important to confirm that you actually completed that part of the process and that the beneficiary you named is still accurate—think: did I skip that part because I didn’t have a social security number at the time? Also, keep in mind that if your 401(k) or 403(b) carrier changes, or you move your Roth IRA to a different company, your beneficiaries will not migrate with that change. A retirement wellness best practice is to review your beneficiaries annually!
- Insurance is another important area of beneficiary planning, especially life insurance. For many families, life insurance proceeds after the death of a loved one are what determines whether a family can maintain their current lifestyle. For instance, a death benefit can help a family stay in their home, ensure a child is able to attend college or keep a retirement plan for a surviving spouse on track. Review both the ownership and beneficiaries of your insurance policies with your agent each year. This helps ensure that your insurance continues to meet the needs of your ever-changing life and benefits those you are trying to protect.
And Don’t Forget… Investment Accounts and Bank Accounts
- If you were unable, is there anyone who can pay bills on your behalf? Keep the household running? Talk with an advisor about ownership/beneficiary options for these types of accounts.
- If you own an annuity, it’s likely that you purchased it for the guaranteed income it can provide. Most annuities include beneficiary options—make sure you made a sound choice for you and your family. And, as life changes, make sure the beneficiary you have designated still makes the most sense for you and your family’s needs.
Stocks, Bonds, and Other Investments
- It’s important to understand how these financial products can be passed on to your beneficiaries. Talk with an advisor about your options. If something is unclear or you forget, it’s ok to ask again!
- You may want to leave your home to your kids, but are they ready for it, and do they want it? Inheriting property comes with responsibilities and expenses that your beneficiary may not be equipped to handle. Speak openly with your financial advisor about your concerns, they’ll be able to provide you with several options for you and your family to discuss and consider.
- Do you want your great grandmother’s locket to go to your daughter? Did you realize that you can include specific items in your will? It’s a great way to ensure that your wishes are carried out. Talk to your attorney today about adding that level of detail to your will.
While everybody’s list is different, the above can help you create your own beneficiary review list. One last reminder: creating and distributing an updated list of accounts, key contacts, insurance policies, etc., can save your loved ones time and frustration. Just as you have your car inspected every year, be sure to inspect your policies annually to ensure that the right beneficiary is always attached to the right financial product.
Note: It’s important to work with an advisor when determining the best ownership and beneficiary options for your situation. This article is only intended to inspire you to take action.
Lauren Finney contributed to this article.
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