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McCurrie McCurrie
& McCurrie, L.L.C.

680 Kearny Avenue
Kearny, NJ 07032-3010
Phone: (201) 467-4180
Fax: (201) 997-9567
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Is it time to update beneficiary designations?

If upon death you want to pass estate assets on to your loved ones, you have a pretty wide range of options in New Jersey, but it's important to choose the right options. One thing to keep in mind when planning your estate is that certain assets, such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies, have beneficiary designations that could override the terms set out in a will.

Generally speaking, a will is meant to control the distribution of personal assets that do not have a beneficiary designation. In other words, wills are used to handle probate assets, and IRAs, insurance policies and other accounts with beneficiaries are not regarded as probate assets. Because non-probate assets involve a contract with another entity, such as an insurance provider, the beneficiary designation on those assets can supersede your will.

An estate planning attorney can help coordinate the distribution of probate and non-probate assets in order to avoid confusion and family disputes.

In New Jersey, if you have a bank account that is payable on death, then that account has a beneficiary designation. That means the money in the account will go to the surviving party listed as a beneficiary, regardless of the contents of a will.

Sometimes, though, people's life situations and family structures change, but the beneficiaries on a payable-on-death account remain the same. It is important, then, to update your estate plan to reflect your current wishes and to coordinate your probate and non-probate assets.

A few questions to consider when deciding how to distribute assets after you're gone:

  • Do you want the property to pass directly and in full to the beneficiary or heir?
  • Or do you want the distribution to be more controlled over time?
  • And how will you simultaneously protect your assets and your Medicaid assistance?

Answering these questions with your attorney can lead to a comprehensive and coordinated estate plan.

Source: nj.com, "Biz Brain: Beneficiaries, wills and inheritances," Karin Price Mueller, Oct. 23, 2013

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