Articles Posted in Beneficiary Designations

For parents that have adopted children, it is important to understand how the law understands adopted children to be part of their families. In the estate planning process, our clients that have adopted children often want to make sure that their kids are well taken care of after their passing. Today, we cover whether adopted children are able to inherit once their parents die.

Under the law in Texas (specifically, Texas Estates Code Section 201.054), adopted children are considered the children of their adopted parents. Therefore, even if a child is adopted, that child inherits as if he or she were the biological child of his or her parents. This comports with adoption laws nationwide, which generally consider an adoptive child to have the exact same rights and privileges as a biological child.

Importantly, this section applies to children adopted through formal procedures; thus, if you have “informally” adopted a child, or if you consider a child to be like your adopted child, this section will not apply to you. The State of Texas must recognize the familial relationship in order for this provision to treat you and your adopted children as though you are biologically related. Understanding this is crucial to avoid one of the more common estate planning mistake among adoptive families.

It’s no question that estate planning can seem daunting. Beyond your last will and testament, there are a bevy of other documents that may seem unnecessary, duplicative, or just plain overwhelming. You may think making beneficiary designations, or forms that allow you to transfer assets directly to individuals without dealing with your will and the probate process, simplifies the entire endeavor. Unfortunately, there are a number of pitfalls that can happen when individuals simply settle for beneficiary designations without utilizing other estate planning tools with an experienced attorney.

1.) Your Beneficiary May Pass Away

Although this may seem obvious, many people do not consider that their beneficiary may pass away. With multiple assets, you may forget to change your designation in the event of your beneficiary’s death, leaving your asset stranded. You may be incapacitated in some way, which could render you unable to update your designations. Without proper mechanisms in place, you would be left without an avenue for passing on your assets.

2.) Your Beneficiary May Not Follow Your Wishes

You may name a beneficiary with the idea that they equitably share the asset or account you’ve left to them with other individuals, such as among siblings or children. Unfortunately, this may not always be the case. Proper planning can ensure your wishes are carried out exactly as you specify, without leaving it up to chance.

Continue reading

Putting together an estate plan is often a long but well-thought-out process. However, last-minute mistakes can lead to future complications. These last-minute mistakes may be changing a designation in the plan at the last second, taking advice from someone and not consulting with their attorney, or not paying attention to changes to applicable laws. Individuals assume their estate plan is setting them up for the future, but if mistakes are made, then the estate plan may not work as intended. Below are two of the most common estate planning mistakes seen by attorneys, along with steps on how to avoid them.

Not Leaving Enough Assets to Fund a Trust

Many people create a trust as part of their estate plan. A trust allows a third party, a trustee, to distribute funds to a named beneficiary. The creator of the trust will provide specific instructions on how funds—or gifts—are to be disbursed to the beneficiary. But when creating a trust, certain individuals forget to make sure there are enough assets in the trust to pay for what has been intended to be given. Estate planning attorneys recommend putting additional funds in the trust in case assets decrease in value over time. Then, the beneficiaries will still be able to receive the amount intended.

Man thinking on computer
“Maintaining a valid and current estate plan is vitally necessary in order to ensure the efficient and orderly dispersion of assets after a person dies. However, even a small mistake can create huge problems during the settlement process, and in many cases, these errors are impossible for anyone to correct.”

There are a few important mistakes that can make an estate plan defective—most of these can be easily avoided by reviewing your estate plan periodically and keeping it up to date.

Investopedia’s article from a few years ago entitled “5 Ways to Mess Up Estate Planning” lists these common blunders:

2.28.20Many people have tens of thousands–even hundreds of thousands–of dollars in their IRAs. If you have an asset that large, shouldn’t you devote more effort to planning for its ultimate disposition?

A designated beneficiary is named on a life insurance policy or some type of investment account as the individual(s) who will receive those assets, in the event of the account holder’s death. The beneficiary designation doesn’t replace a signed will but takes precedence over any instructions about these accounts in a will. If the decedent doesn’t have a will, the beneficiary may see a long delay in the probate court.

If you’ve done your estate planning, most likely you’ve spent a fair amount of time on the creation of your will. You’ve discussed the terms with an established estate planning attorney and reviewed the document before signing it.

2.7.20This time of the year is a great time to revisit your estate plan, so you can ensure your legacy is protected for years to come.”

Many of us set New Year’s resolutions to improve our quality of life. While it’s often a goal to exercise more or eat more healthily, you can also resolve to improve your financial well-being. It’s a great time to review your estate plan to make sure your legacy is protected.

The Tennessean’s recent article entitled “Five estate-planning steps to take in the new year” gives us some common updates for your estate planning.

1.23.20If you pass away without naming beneficiaries in your will, it can create legal entanglements for your heirs.

If you decide to purchase a life insurance policy or to put some money into a new deferred annuity contract or Individual Retirement Account (IRA), you need to complete the beneficiary form.

However, Investopedia’s recent article entitled “Why Your Will Should Name Designated Beneficiaries” says that you may just name a person as a beneficiary, without fully appreciating this aspect of your estate planning.

8.2.19Yes, it is old-school, but if your family is on the traditional side, headed up by a breadwinner dad who runs the finances, then you need to make plans to ensure that your family will be okay, if something should happen to you.

This advice also applies to mothers who are the main breadwinners and run their family’s finances, even though the title of this Forbes article is “How Fathers Can Make Sure Their Families Are Financially Protected.”

Do you have enough life insurance? Be sure you’re adequately insured, so your family won’t struggle to pay the bills without your income. Many employees only have enough life insurance from work to cover a year’s worth of salary, which may be enough for some families. However, if your spouse can't make the mortgage payment on their own, and if they would be unwilling or unable to sell the home, you might want to at least make sure you have enough life insurance to pay off the mortgage. Once you know how much you need, buy a low-cost term policy for the maximum length of time you might need the coverage.

4.25.19There’s an easy way for select assets to be passed to heirs, with no need for probate. It’s called the beneficiary designation.

Your will is a document that is used to pass property and assets to your heirs, but it’s not the only way.

Certain accounts or assets have beneficiary designations, where you provide instructions on who is to receive assets when you die. Most people don’t realize that the beneficiary designation is more powerful than the will, and directions in a will are overruled by the beneficiary designation.

1.17.19Out-of-date beneficiary designations could completely undo your entire estate plan. It happens often, since people often neglect these ‘fine print’ details.

We hope that you have a will to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after you pass. However, if you are like most Americans, many of your assets are not distributed through your will, but through a beneficiary designation, which you may have not thought about since opening up the account, retirement account, 401(k), IRA or SEP or taking out a life insurance policy. A word of warning: regardless of what’s in your will, the beneficiary designation takes precedence.

Benzinga’s recent article addresses this question: “Estate Planning: What Are Per Capita And Per Stirpes Beneficiary Designations?” Have you changed the beneficiary designations, since the account or policy was first started? If you need to update your beneficiary designation, talk to the company responsible for maintaining the account. They’ll send you a form to complete, sign and return. Keep a copy for your own records.

Contact Information