As an Anchorage estate planning attorney, I have seen many unfortunate circumstances where a person goes through the time and expense of having an estate plan created only to fail to update their beneficiaries on their financial or retirement accounts before they pass away.
An example of this would be Mary naming her brother Bill as the beneficiary of her life insurance policy in her trust, but at the time of her death, she had a different beneficiary named on the policy itself.
Just as life changes, so do your relationships, which can affect who you want to receive your assets –especially if you do not have children. Changing the beneficiary on assets such as bank accounts or life insurance policies is not uncommon, but you must remember to make sure that your will or trust reflects that change also.
Keeping your estate planning documents and beneficiaries up-to-date and coordinated is a quick and painless way to prevent legal headaches from occurring after you are gone. Having two different named beneficiaries on two different documents can result in a lengthy and costly process to fix it – especially if each named person believes that they should be the one to inherit the asset.
Many of our clients will set a date each year, such as the start of the 4th quarter or right after the new year, to review and update their documents. You’ll want to look at each account you own, how it’s titled, and who is listed as the beneficiary on the account…then decide if you are still happy with those choices.
If there are changes you want made, the best thing to do is reach out to an experienced Anchorage estate planning attorney who focuses on wills, trusts, and estate planning. Your attorney will help ensure that all of your documents are updated properly and coordinated across your estate plan. Your attorney will also help you avoid common mistakes and oversights so that your family is not stuck with a mess down the road.
If you need help getting started, or you’d like assistance reviewing an older plan, simply call the office at (907) 334-9200 to schedule a planning session with the mention of this article.