Have You Checked Your Beneficiary Designations Recently?

McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC

Beneficiary designations are forms that are routinely completed for life insurance policies, retirement accounts and even some bank and investment accounts. The forms say who will receive the asset upon the asset owner’s death. When a beneficiary designation is in place, it generally controls the disposition of the asset it is associated with, regardless of what one’s will or other estate planning document says. As part of a periodic review of your estate plan, it is vitally important to review all of your beneficiary designations. This is particularly important when facing major life events such as divorce, the death of a beneficiary, birth of a child, or the marriage of a beneficiary to a less-than-desirable spouse. While Pennsylvania law does provide some protection in this area, as a practical matter insurance companies and retirement plan administrators are extremely reluctant to pay benefits to anyone other than the individual or individuals named on the beneficiary designation.

The Kennedy Case - The United States Supreme Court decision in Kennedy, Executrix v. Plan Administrator of the DuPont Savings and Investment Plan serves as a reminder of the need for retirement plan participants and IRA account holders to review their beneficiary designations on a regular basis, particularly when involved in a divorce.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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