Thanks to a popular 2007 motion picture, many Americans now have a “bucket list” — an inventory of accomplishments they hope to achieve in their lifetimes.
Although many bucket list endeavors require courage or tenacity, such as traveling to faraway places or writing a book, there’s at least one task you can resolve to accomplish that is fairly simple but could have lasting benefits for your family, friends, and possibly a favorite charity.
Designate Your Beneficiaries
When you set up an IRA or participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, you are typically asked to fill out a beneficiary designation form. Although many people postpone the naming of a beneficiary, this can be a big mistake. IRAs and most retirement accounts are not subject to probate, and the assets will convey directly to your designated beneficiaries, regardless of different instructions in your will. Whoever is designated as your account beneficiary will inherit the proceeds directly, and it would be unlikely for a probate court to order a different result.
Failing to designate a beneficiary means your estate could inherit the money. Because your estate is not eligible for the same tax benefits that individual investors enjoy, your estate would be required to withdraw the assets over a shorter time period. By contrast, a correctly named beneficiary can preserve the tax-deferred status of the inherited funds and spread the tax liability over several years or even over his or her lifetime.
Life Insurance Policies, Too
Life insurance benefits also convey directly to beneficiaries, independent of the probate process. Although it would be unusual to purchase life insurance without designating a beneficiary, it’s not unusual for policy owners to fail to review their beneficiary designations on a regular basis.
The reasons you bought your life insurance policy and the people you want it to protect may change over time. But only you can change the designated beneficiaries on your life insurance policy. Major life events such as marriage, birth, divorce, or death may affect your choice of beneficiaries, and it’s important to update your designations to keep pace with any changes in your life.
Estate conservation issues may be uncomfortable to face, but there’s probably no other aspect that is as simple or inexpensive as designating beneficiaries. Keeping your beneficiary designations up to date can help ensure that your valuable assets go to the people you want to inherit them.
Sarah Tolson, Certified Financial Planner™ recipient, is passionate about building the next generation of her family’s legacy of personalized financial planning; and she is committed to helping professionals create wealth-building plans tailored to their age, goals, and life circumstances.
Sarah joined her family’s wealth-building business to help the children of her family’s clients begin to start building their own wealth, with someone who understood their values and who would not be judgmental or lecture them like a parent.
Sarah has a Bachelor of Science in Business from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. She joined her family’s firm in 2006 after several years in a successful retail merchandising career with Target Corporation and Abercrombie & Fitch.
As an active member of the Junior League of the Oakland-East Bay and the Pleasanton North Rotary Club, Sarah participates in philanthropic work regularly. Sarah is on the Board of Directors for the Financial Women’s Association of San Francisco and helps to organize events especially for members who live in the East Bay. She is also the Vice President for the Founder’s of Success chapter of Business Network International (BNI) and a member of e-Women Network.
In addition to financial consulting, Sarah is an entertaining and captivating public speaker; and she is currently writing a book about financial planning for women with young families. In her spare time, Sarah enjoys playing tennis, cooking, and traveling.
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The information in this article is not intended as tax or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek tax or legal advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Emerald. © 2011 Emerald Connect, Inc.