Beneficiary Designations vs. Wills

When does your Will not control what happens to your property?

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A husband and Wife have just signed their Wills. They naturally have every expectation that the language in their Wills is controlling as to what happens to their property when they die; However, if the Will preparer has not become familiar with how the couple own (how the property is titled) their property, there could be problems the couple did not anticipate.

Retirement Forms and Property Titles

Frequently individuals have signed beneficiary designation forms (POD forms) at their bank or with the firm that handles their retirement accounts (TOD forms). These beneficiary designation forms and not the Will are controlling as to what happens to those assets. For example, assume Jane is a widow with three (3) adult children; Jane’s Will says her three children are to share equally in her property upon her death; However, the attorney who prepared Jane’s will did not inquire about how Jane had her property titled. As it turns out, Jane had all of her money in various bank and Investment accounts. Each account had its own beneficiary designation. Some of the beneficiary Forms named individuals other than her children as beneficiaries. The beneficiary designation forms would control who receives those accounts. The Will would be ineffective to transfer those accounts. Your attorney should take the Time to learn how your property is titled so that the wishes expressed in your Will are coordinated with any beneficiary designations you have made.