Updating Beneficiary Designation Forms

Did you know that if you do not properly designate beneficiaries on assets like life insurance & retirement accounts - those assets may be distributed to your “estate” instead of your intended beneficiary? This can increase the value of your estate and make it more difficult for family to quickly obtain those payments. In California, if the life insurance distribution, or retirement account balance, has a value in excess of $150,000 your heirs will be forced to open a formal court supervised probate action. Probate is a costly and time consuming affair that should be avoided if at all possible. 

Part of your estate planning should include a review of these type accounts to be sure that you have properly named your beneficiaries (often a surviving spouse with children as contingent beneficiaries). 

Key times to do this about updating beneficiary designation forms include:

  • When you get married
  • When you get divorced
  • When you have a new child
  • When someone passes away
  • When you update or create your estate plan
  • When you change jobs
  • When you move your assets from one institution or financial planner to another


If you are an adult child coming into the picture to help mom or dad - this is one area to not overlook. If they did not properly name beneficiaries - you may not be able to make that happen once they have lost capacity. Be sure to talk about these items ahead of time to minimize cost and delay in accessing such accounts or payments down the road.