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June 12, 2020

You’ve successfully completed the important task of creating an estate plan. As part of your estate plan, you should have a valid Florida Will, perhaps a Revocable Living Trust as well as your incapacity documents (durable power of attorney, living will, designation of health care surrogate and HIPAA authorization).  As a final step, you should have ensured that all beneficiary designations were up to date.  Once all of this was completed, I’m sure you felt accomplished (and you should!).  Yet, it’s wise to check your beneficiary designation forms and keep your estate plan current in order to avoid unintended consequences.  Let’s face it – life changes and your estate plan should change right along with it.

Beneficiary Designation Forms

It’s important to know that though you have a will and may have named some beneficiaries for real estate, bank accounts, or personal items, your will does not affect who will inherit certain other assets. Retirement accounts, life insurance policy benefits, and annuities are among a set of assets that require you to complete separate beneficiary designation forms that set out who will inherit them. These are important to complete because whatever your beneficiary statement says overrides anything else in your will with directions to the contrary; it is the document used to distribute those assets.  Yet, if you’re relying on the Will alone to distribute your assets then you might want to consider utilizing beneficiary designations on any accounts that offer it, since this will eliminate the need for probate administration.

Beneficiary Oversights

Though the job of professionals helping you plan or administer your estate is to help you complete important documents and advise you of how to best ensure your wishes are carried out, it is important to check beneficiary forms yourself. These custodians are human, so mistakes can be made. Ensure that you read every form completed on your behalf before you sign it to ensure the right beneficiary is entered.

Updating After Major Family Life Changes

Often, people who have created an estate plan go into a “set it and forget it” mentality – once the documents are completed, they do not go back to update the documents after major life changes such as births, deaths, marriages, and divorces. Failure to do so can result in results you never intended.

For example, a new grandchild may be excluded because they were not born before you completed the forms – the same is true of a new son- or daughter-in-law whose marriage occurred very recently. Assets may also go to people you never intended as beneficiaries such as a now ex-spouse or the estate of someone who is now deceased.

Contact a Florida Estate Planning Lawyer

Completing an estate plan and setting out beneficiaries is critical to ensure your wishes are followed, but it’s important to remember that because you set something in writing years ago, plans can change. Reviewing your beneficiary designation forms and updating them as necessary is important to keep your plan aligned with your current life and family situation. The experienced estate planning attorneys at The Legacy Law Firm can help you review your current plan and ensure it remains aligned with your wishes as they stand now. Contact us today to learn more and get started.