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Beneficiary designations supersede the content of wills

Often, people work hard for years to amass wealth that they plan to bequeath in a very specific manner to their family members and friends. It can be very satisfying to know that the fruits of your labors will be placed in the hands of your loved ones. Your end of life gifts can provide your beneficiaries with assets to help build and sustain their lives. Moreover, the inheritance you leave your heirs acts as your legacy.

If it is important that you are fondly remembered and that your assets and property that comprise your estate are properly disbursed, you need to craft a very specifically worded will. But it takes more than inventorying your estate and designating who gets what to ensure your wishes are carried out; you also must understand what can and cannot be included in a will.

For example, let's say among your assets you have an IRA, annuities or a life insurance policy. These are items that do not go through the probate process. Rather, the recipients of these accounts will be those you designate as beneficiaries on separate documentation. Even if your will expresses your desire for one of your heirs to have all or part of such an account, the money will only go to whoever is a designated beneficiary on the appropriate documents.

To ensure that your inheritance wishes are honored, and your legacy is preserved, it's best to discuss your will with an experienced estate planning attorney. The attorney can help you craft a clear, concise will that includes your assets that are eligible for probate. The attorney can also review your designated beneficiaries for your IRAs or other accounts and help you make any desired changes.

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