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VOL. 129 | NO. 168 | Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dana and Ray Brandon

Beneficiary Forms Trump Your Will

By Ray and Dana Brandon

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Ray’s take: Few people like to think about death – particularly their own. But a sound estate plan includes dealing with that possibility to be certain your wishes are honored after you “make the switch.”

An integral part of the estate planning process includes reviewing all of your accounts and comparing your beneficiary forms to your will and making sure everything is consistent with your plan. By doing this, you will avoid headaches for those left behind.

Any assets that can’t or don’t have a beneficiary or transfer on death designations go through probate in order to determine their disposition. While non-probate assets can be a handy tool for keeping assets out of the sometimes expensive and longer probate process, unintended consequences can arise.

Any asset that has a beneficiary designation, or TOD, go wherever that designation says. These accounts include life insurance, annuities, your IRA and 401(k), and sometimes mutual funds or brokerage accounts.

Many people are not aware that the beneficiary and TOD designations override a will. As a result, an asset may pass to someone whom you designated many years ago, rather than to the person whom you have named in your will more recently.

A regular review of how you wish your assets to be dispersed, along with a review of all associated beneficiary forms, will lead to the best execution of your wishes.

Dana’s take: Having a hard time coming up with a gift for your spouse? One of the best gifts a couple can give each other is an appointment with a Certified Financial Planner, an estate attorney or, better still, both.

Think of it as creating a support team for your surviving spouse and children. It’s a professional relationship that provides a sense of security as you move through life together.

By reviewing our assets, beneficiary forms and wills regularly, or at least when major life changes take place, we are insuring that once we are gone, things go smoothly for those left behind.

Death is not something we want to picture, and we don’t have to actually think about the how of it, just what will happen afterward to those we love. For those left behind, death is always a difficult issue to deal with for so many reasons. Take the time to make a difficult period in your survivors’ lives just a little easier by choosing to take care of the details ahead of time.

Ray Brandon is a certified financial planner and CEO of Brandon Financial Planning (brandonplanning.com). His wife, Dana, has a bachelor’s degree in finance and is a licensed clinical social worker. Contact Ray Brandon at raybrandon@brandonplanning.com.

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