For many people, their will is their final communication to the world.
A will states how your property should be distributed upon death. CNBC’s recent article entitled “Your ex-spouse could inherit your money. How to avoid this and other estate-planning mistakes,” says that depending on how you plan, it may have a few surprises for those close to you.
There are a couple of situations where you could inadvertently leave money to people you no longer intend as heirs, much to the surprise of other heirs.
An ex-spouse could get some of your money when you die if you do not update your beneficiaries under a retirement plan.
Divorce does not automatically change a beneficiary designation unless the divorce decree includes a stipulation to change it. IRAs are the same, so it is not uncommon for an IRA owner to die without having changed the beneficiary designation after a divorce. It’s usually just a simple oversight.
However, most state laws provide that ex-spouses lose all property rights once a married couple is divorced.
However, pensions are governed by federal law, formally known as ERISA or the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. As a result, state rules do not apply.
Pensions are not the only accounts that people tend to forget to update. Bank account beneficiary designations are often hard to find, and circumstances may change when you first set them up.
While it may be tempting to disinherit someone you are no longer close with, it can be a bad idea. That is because it can invite all kinds of issues, like a will challenge.
There is always the chance you may reconcile, even on your death bed, at which point it will be too late to update your will and estate plan. Therefore, leave something less to them and do not say anything bad.
To ensure your wishes are carried out the way you want, work with an experienced estate planning attorney.
Reference: CNBC (Jan. 9, 2022) “Your ex-spouse could inherit your money. How to avoid this and other estate-planning mistakes.”