Transfer on Death Problems

Owners of insurance policies, accounts, real estate and all other assets must understand that a beneficiary designation will supersede a written will or trust.  For example, if a will states that all assets will be divided between three children but there is a TOD on a bank account to one child, that child receives the entire account and the other two go without.  It is for this reason that a thorough estate plan not only prepares a will or a trust but looks at all assets and all beneficiary designations.  Problems arise if the owner fails to update beneficiary designations or a beneficiary predeceases an owner or there is a divorce or numerous other issues.  It becomes more complicated when individuals designate a minor child or former spouse as a beneficiary.  Planning for retirement designations accounts like IRA’s or 401(k)’s is even more difficult and complex.  Beneficiary designations, without a comprehensive plan, are dangerous and often result in unnecessary family fights and litigation.  Do not think of beneficiary designations as an estate plan but only one tool to use in a well planned estate.