If you’re not careful, life insurance (and other beneficiary designation assets) can become a probate asset. And, that’s not good.
Beneficiary designation assets are contracts wherein you have the opportunity to name an individual(s) or trust(s) to receive your assets when you die. Beneficiary designations assets include life insurance, retirement accounts, and annuities. Some bank accounts have beneficiaries, as well.
Beneficiary designation assets usually avoid probate. And, that’s a good thing.
Probate is a big hassle and everyone and anyone can know your business with a trip to the courthouse or a click online. This means that predators and nosey neighbors, friends, and relatives can look up what assets you owned at your death, what debts you owed at your death, who your beneficiaries were, and who your executor was.
Why is publicity a bad thing? Most folks like to keep their financial and family business private. In addition, predators such as greedy relatives and friends and conmen such as unscrupulous clergy, financial advisors, and charities may inundate your beneficiaries with requests.
In addition, probate is expensive, time consuming, and a hassle. It is to be avoided. You can easily keep your life insurance (and other beneficiary designation assets) from going through probate.
The key is to name an individual(s) or trust(s) as the beneficiary of your life insurance. If you name your estate as the beneficiary or fail to name a beneficiary at all, the assets will flow into your estate. If the assets are in your estate, probate is triggered.
Be sure to review your beneficiary designations now and each time you have your estate plan professionally reviewed. Reviews are necessary every three to five years.
If you have questions about how to fill out your beneficiary designation form for your life insurance, consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.