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Beneficiary designations

Florida residents often are careful with their estate plans in order to ensure that their loved ones are provided for upon death. However, one mistake that many individuals make is to forget to update beneficiaries in an appropriate manner, leaving their assets to go to other individuals who were not the intended beneficiaries.

Certain assets have a beneficiary designation that allows for an automatic transfer after death. These types of assets pass outside of probate and include accounts such as life insurance, IRAs and joint accounts with rights of survivorship. Other assets pass by provisions contained in a person's will, or if there is no will, by the laws of intestacy. The terms of a will do not supersede beneficiary designations. Instead, a will's terms only govern those assets that do not have designated beneficiaries or assets payable to a person's estate.

A person may need to update beneficiary designations for a variety of reasons. One such reason is to change a beneficiary when a child reaches the age of majority. Individuals may wish to leave assets to children or grandchildren who can now stand to inherit because they are adults. It may also be necessary to change a beneficiary designation in order to remove a person because of events such as death, divorce or estrangement.

Estate planning lawyers may be able to assist individuals carry out their final wishes. They may be able to draft wills or trusts so that certain beneficiaries are listed and assets are distributed based on the preferences of the grantor. Additionally, lawyers may be able to review other accounts to ensure that all beneficiary designations are updated.

Source:, "Biz Brain: Beneficiaries, wills and inheritances", Karin Price Mueller, October 23, 2013

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