What is a beneficiary?

A beneficiary is a person who receives money, property, or other assets from a will, contract, or insurance policy. Wills, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies should all have beneficiaries named before you decease. When you name a beneficiary, you must give enough detail about the person so they can be easily located. These people should be listed on your accounts, or in a will, in order to ensure that the property and/or assets are given to the correct person.

The most common beneficiaries are spouses, children, grandchildren, relatives, friends, and charities. There are two types of beneficiaries: primary and secondary. Primary beneficiaries are first entitled to receive assigned assets after your death. Secondary beneficiaries, or contingents, receive assets if a primary beneficiary has died prior to your death. If you wish to change your beneficiaries, contact a Arizona estate planning lawyer from Ferris, Thompson & Zweig.

Changing & Updating Beneficiaries

It is imperative that you always review and update your beneficiaries. If there are any marriages, births, or divorces in your family, your beneficiaries may change. You do not want to die and have your assets given to the wrong people. Always update your will beneficiaries, life insurance policy beneficiaries, and all other types of beneficiaries when you experience a major life event. Be sure, however, to check with an attorney before making changes to beneficiaries.

When you have people listed as certain types of account beneficiaries, they may take precedence over beneficiaries listed in a will. When you do list beneficiaries, make sure you keep copies of the beneficiary designation forms. Secondary beneficiaries are important to have in case the primary beneficiaries do not outlive you. It is always a good idea to list another person who should receive your property if the primary beneficiary dies.

If you do not list a secondary beneficiary, whatever was supposed to be given to the primary beneficiary is said to have lapsed or failed. This means that the property will either go to the beneficiary’s descendants, your heirs, or the residuary beneficiary named in the will. A residuary beneficiary is someone who is to inherit all items that are not specifically left to another person. If you wish to change your beneficiaries in your will, you can create a new will.

It must state that the current will revokes the old will/wills. You can also add a codicil, which is similar to an amendment. To be valid, they must be signed, dated, and witnessed. If you wish to change beneficiaries for other estate documents, such as life insurance policies, you use the same forms on which you listed the original beneficiaries. Changing the names in your will does not have any effect on these types of documents.

Need a lawyer for changing a beneficiary?

The estate planning attorneys at Ferris, Thompson & Zweig are able to help those wishing to change their beneficiaries listed on any type of estate planning document. We can help you re-write your will or draft a codicil that expresses such changes. Our team can also help you fill out the correct paperwork necessary for other estate beneficiary changes. With years of experience, our firm is prepared to help you change your beneficiaries. Contact a Arizona estate planning attorney from our firm to find out how our services can be of use to you!