Dealing with retirement accounts during estate planning

Many people have retirement accounts and other investments, as well as Social Security benefits that they have worked hard to earn and build. Although these individuals hope to take advantage of these resources when the time comes, they don't always live long enough to do so. In those instances, major questions can be raised about how those assets will be distributed. Without an effective estate plan, those financial resources may be passed down to someone who doesn't deserve them.

So what can be done to ensure your retirement accounts are directed to an individual of your choosing? The best way is to simply list that identified person as your beneficiary. By doing so, the asset bypasses the probate process and is quickly accessible to the beneficiary. It is worth noting, though, that some retirement accounts, like a 401(k), require you to list your spouse as a beneficiary unless there is a written agreement stating otherwise.

To ensure that all of your retirement assets are dealt with in accordance with your wishes, you need to make sure you address each and every one of them. While you may direct retirement funds into some sort of trust, you should really only do so if you have a clear purpose. Otherwise you may wind up restricting a loved one's access to the funds for a significant period of time. To make sure you've addressed all of these assets, it is often wise to make a list of them along with corresponding information regarding the account type and number, as well as the named beneficiary for each.

Revisiting your estate plan on a consistent basis is the best way to ensure that it still meets your needs. If you choose to work with an attorney who is experienced in this area of law, then you may feel a great sense of relief knowing that your plan is holistic, legally valid, and inline with your vision for the future of your loved ones and your estate.

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