Many assets, including bank, retirement, brokerage, company benefit plan, life insurance, and 529 college accounts are passed at death via a beneficiary designation. It is easy to name the beneficiary by completing the proper form provided by the financial institution. It’s also easy to forget to turn the form in or to make sure the beneficiary you designated when the asset was acquired is still your intended beneficiary. In most cases, the beneficiary form will overrule your will, trust, and even state law so it is important to make a periodic review of your designated beneficiaries.
The Supreme Court has faced this issue on at least two occasions. In 2001, the court ruled that a decedent’s ex-wife was the legal beneficiary of his pension benefits and life insurance proceeds because the decedent failed to update the beneficiary designations after their divorce. The Court ruled that the beneficiary designations overruled the state law that would have automatically disinherited the ex-wife and so the decedent’s children from a prior marriage received nothing. Egelhoff v. Egelhoff, 532 US 141 (2001). In another matter, the Court determined that the beneficiary Read more