By Elizabeth McKinney, Attorney
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP
Many people believe that if you have a will, that document controls who receives every asset you own. But that’s not necessarily true. A will or other similar documents, such a trust, can dictate who gets most assets, but beneficiary designations for certain assets, such as 401(k)s and life insurance, as well as transfer on death or payable on death designations on bank or brokerage accounts, supersede that. Those accounts should be reviewed periodically, but particularly after a major life change such as a death or a divorce.
For example, if you change your will to indicate your new spouse should receive your assets after your death, as you probably should, but you didn’t change the beneficiary for your Individual Retirement Account (IRA), your ex could end up with the proceeds of that account, much to the surprise of your new spouse. Most people set up those accounts and never revisit the information attached to it, which is where problems come in.