Beneficiary Designations & Your Estate Plan

Like many people, you may have several assets and accounts that you have filled out beneficiary designation forms (BDF) for. BDF’s are essentially contracts between you and the company that will determine what happens with that account when you die. BDF’s are usually associated with life insurance, pensions, IRA’s, 401(k)’s, annuities and other accounts. 

In my years of practice, I have seen many cases of BDF’s not filled out completely, filled out improperly or overall run counter to the estate planning wishes of the client. I have heard from many people that they think the their Last Will & Testament will control over the BDF, but that’s not true. BDF’s are contracts that supersede the will.

Unfortunately, overlooking BDF’s can have extremely negative consequences in your estate plan. I spend a significant amount of time with each client to review their accounts with BDF’s and ensure the designation fits within their estate plan. An estate plan should be reviewed at least every few years. You should keep a copy of your BDF’s with your will or trust so that when you review the plan, you can review the BDF’s as well.