A beneficiary is simply “a person who receives a benefit.” In this case the benefit is the money you are distributing after you die. While the Will can take care of any assets that don’t have a beneficiary designated, it is much faster and clearer to assign beneficiaries to any and all accounts and assets that let you.
We recently helped the daughter of one of our clients who had passed. The daughter called in looking for help to claim a life insurance benefit her mother had left for her. Hans called in to the insurance company with the daughter, and in one phone call the insurance company was able to see the daughter was the listed beneficiary, find an obituary online for the mother, confirm the daughter’s banking information, and send the payment right away!
Accounts that let you choose beneficiaries include IRAs, 401(k)s and other retirement fund accounts; life insurance and annuity policies; savings, checking, and other financial accounts – all the different ways you can store your money. Note: some financial accounts may use Transfer-On-Death (TOD) paperwork instead of beneficiary forms, but they are essentially the same thing. Assets that don’t have beneficiary designations include things like houses, boats, or other property.
You can (and should) choose at least one beneficiary for each account that lets you at the time that you open the account. After that, you can easily add, remove, or change your beneficiary choices at any time usually by filling out a form.
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