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The importance of naming primary and secondary beneficiaries

One of the greatest benefits of estate planning for you and your loved ones is not only documenting your wishes, but also ensuring that your goals are carried out without additional heartache and financial burden. Effective estate planning allows you to not only provide you peace of mind, but also to those you select to receive your property without unnecessary delays.

Selecting specific beneficiaries is as important as the smooth transfer of those assets.

Failing to specifically designate beneficiaries will transfer your assets by default. For example, if you are not married or do not have a surviving spouse, property will transfer to your estate. Without necessary protections that come with planning, the process becomes complex. Probate could lead to additional estate expenses and lack of protection from potential creditor claims.

Naming secondary beneficiaries could be as important as naming primary ones, particularly if your first choices pass away before you or outright refuse an inheritance. Without that much-needed “back-up plan,” you could expose your family to a combination of legal complexities and emotional trauma during an already difficult time.

A primary or secondary beneficiary can be a person or an entity, such as a trust or charity. Some estate plans use more general terms such as “the person I’m married to at the time of my death” or “descendants who survive me.” However, specific designations allow the choice of specific financial amounts and assets for each beneficiary.

When it comes to naming beneficiaries as part of an estate plan, it is not a “one and done” process. Simply put, life changes. That requires periodic review of those you select to inherit your assets if vital. New marriages, divorce filings, deaths and even births require revisiting these important documents.

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