When it comes time to consider where assets are going to go upon one's death, Maryland residents may need to consider more than just drafting a will. Estate planning is more than just having a will drafted, and probate administration goes beyond reading a will. In fact, many consider estate planning to be a series of processes that should be regularly revised and updated. One of the areas of planning that may not be considered at the forefront is what happens when beneficiaries on accounts are different than in a will.
Retirement, savings and other accounts have beneficiaries listed on their policies to protect the assets in the event of the death of the account holder. When the account holder has a will but the beneficiaries either do not match or are not listed in the will, loved ones may be surprised during the probate process. Even if a will states that all assets should be passed to the surviving spouse, individual accounts with other named beneficiaries will still pass to that named individual.
One reason why Maryland residents may find themselves in this situation is because the beneficiaries listed on accounts were not updated after a major life event such as marriage, divorce or death of a spouse. During these times, the wishes of the account holder may change, but they may not consider changing each account individually. What complicates this process is that major life events on the part of the beneficiary may also cause account holders to change their wishes.
It is important that the will and the individual account information match beyond just the listed beneficiary. It is also important to specify how the assets should be transferred, such as designating a trust for minor children. When estate planning documents and individual account beneficiary wishes are not in sync, the complications may extend beyond just the probate process to taxes and more.
When Maryland estate plans are contested, the surviving family may face a challenging probate administration process. It may be hard to understand the wishes of the deceased loved one, especially if there is a lack of coordination in those wishes. It may benefit Maryland individuals to seek advice as to the best way to ensure that all estate planning documents are coordinated in order to protect their assets and their family.
Source: The Princeton Packet, "Hook'd on personal finance: When estate planning, consider assets not in a will," Howard Hook, Aug. 2, 2012