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July 6, 2011

Naming beneficiaries is more important and more difficult than may realize.

The July 6th article in the Wall Street Journal, “Beware the Beneficiary Form” is a good introduction to this subject.  It is too easy to name the wrong beneficiary.  The beneficiary designations on financial products generally override the terms of a will.  Errors in naming beneficiaries can not only defeat your planning, it can also increase taxes, complicate estate administration, and create other problems.
Frequently we name a temporary beneficiary intending to changing it after talking with our advisers.  Although it sounds like a good approach, most people do not follow-up. 
General advice is to review the designation every few years or after life-changing events.  It is too easy to think you just did it last year.  When you pull together your information to prepare your income tax is a good time to review beneficiary designation and ownership.  Then be sure to follow-up before April 15th. 
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