Beneficiary Designations

Who Should be Your Beneficiary Designations?

Proper beneficiary designations are very important when planning your estate. A Will or Trust document should state clearly and precisely the identity of all primary and secondary beneficiaries. Problems arise when these descriptions are unclear or confusing, particularly where document provisions provide for alternate beneficiaries in the event of certain contingencies. Triggering events and beneficiary identities need to be spelled out.

Confusion or misinterpretation of beneficiaries and the interests they are to receive can result in Court delays, added expenses and the possibility that the intention of the testator or trust grantor may not be fulfilled.

When there is an issue regarding the interpretation of language in a Last Will or trust, the Surrogate's Court procedures provide for a construction of the document.  Construing ambiguous parts of a Will or trust can occur in a separate construction proceeding or may take place as part of the fiduciary's account settlement.  New York Estate Lawyers are familiar with accounting proceedings.  These proceedings provide a means by which all interested parties can review the activities of the fiduciary and disputes regarding the interpretation of language can be resolved.

It is also important from time to time to review the persons you name to receive your assets.  Many documents such as Wills and Trusts may have been prepared years ago and the exact provisions are soon forgotten.  It may be that some of the persons designated have died or have become incapacitated so that a Will provision directing that they receive a bequest would be inappropriate.  Also changes in life occurrences may affect the appropriateness of certain bequests.   A testator may no longer have a friendship with a person named in Will that was prepared say 20 years ago and now wants to eliminate the provision.   On the other hand, there may be individuals or charities that you want to add to a Will.   Also, a beneficiary such as a parent may be an inappropriate recipient since receiving extra assets may adversely effect the parent's estate plan by incurring additional estate or income taxes.  A Manhattan Estate attorney, like those in other counties, can assist you with recognizing the potential issues involved in the beneficiary designation process.

If you need help with your Will and beneficiary designations, or are involved with a situation where there is a dispute or confusion over beneficiary designations, the advice and council of an attorney can be a big help. Regardless of the size of an estate, most adults — young and old — and their families benefit greatly from having a well-prepared estate plan consisting of documents such as a: Last Will, Health Care Proxy, Power of Attorney and Living Will.

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