So, you’ve done it! You’ve written your Will. Think of your Will as your “story” telling the world who gets your stuff when you die. You put a good deal of effort into creating your Will, and it’s a ‘nice’ story. A story the beneficiaries you’ve named in your Will really like reading. This is Story 1.
Now Story 2. You have different types of assets—maybe a house, bank accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance, brokerage accounts, etc. Over time, you have named beneficiaries on some of these various accounts. Some of your accounts don’t have beneficiaries. Some of the accounts are jointly owned with someone else.
These are two common stories, and for many people, these two stories are occurring simultaneously. If Story 1 and Story 2 aren’t telling the same story (meaning the beneficiaries and their shares aren’t the same in both), then the story you tell in your Will isn’t going to be so ‘nice’ anymore. Why? Let’s go back to the basics and look at the general rules.
Remember, asset ownership and beneficiary designations dictate how assets are distributed when you die. Your Will only controls assets you own individually at death. That means any asset jointly owned with someone else is not controlled by your Will—the joint owner gets it. It also means any assets you own with designated beneficiaries (you know, the form you fill out when you get a new financial/retirement assets) won’t be controlled by your Will. That person you named gets it!
Simply put, the beneficiary designation and/or joint ownership trumps what’s written in your Will! If you want what’s written in your Will to occur (Story 1), and you have assets owned with others or with designated beneficiaries (Story 2), make sure you are telling the same Story! Otherwise, you’re beneficiaries may really be in for a surprise. Surprises are ‘nice’ aren’t they?
I’m a pretty darn good story teller, and I can help you be one, too.
If you want to get started writing down your story for your family estate planning, consider scheduling an initial consultation with us today. Just click here and we'll be in touch.