Skip to Content

How to Choose a Beneficiary for Your Florida Estate

March 7, 2022 CSBB Blog

In one way, the decision of who to choose as your beneficiaries is quite simple: Who do you want to receive your assets? The most obvious answers are family members, such as spouses, children or brothers and sisters, or very close friends whom you consider family. 

It is important for Palm Beach County residents to keep in mind that a will or trust doesn’t overrule beneficiary designations on retirement accounts such as life insurance policies, 401(k)s, IRAs, or CDs. Those beneficiary designations were likely made back when you set up those accounts and they will remain that way unless changed by you. However, there is an advantage regarding retirement accounts (assuming you’re keeping your beneficiaries up-to-date), and that is that those assets avoid probate if there is a beneficiary designation. 

Considerations That May Impact Your Decision

Choosing a beneficiary or beneficiaries is an exceptionally important decision. A Florida and Palm Beach County estate planning attorney at Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun understands the challenges faced by this decision. Our estate planning lawyers are experienced in the laws surrounding related areas, such as probate, asset protection planning, estate litigation, tax planning, guardianship, mediation, and business entities and transactions.

In our experience, common mistakes people make when choosing a beneficiary, especially for the aforementioned retirement accounts that may have been made decades ago, include:

  • Naming no beneficiary
  • Naming an “ex” as a beneficiary
  • Naming a trust that no longer exists
  • Failure to list a secondary or contingent beneficiary
  • Naming an “estate” as a beneficiary
  • Directly naming a minor

How to Name a Beneficiary

Your beneficiaries should be the people that you currently want to receive your assets unless you need the money to pay off taxes, debts, or other expenses.

Those with families commonly designate their spouse as their beneficiary, especially if their children are under 18 years of age. Alternatively, they might have their share of the inheritance placed into a trust until the children are adults. Adult children may also be named as beneficiaries, but this is most commonly done only if the spouse is deceased. Other relatives and even friends can be listed, but that is less typical.

We know from experience and from having families of our own that family dynamics are not always positive. There may be friendships that are more important to you than the relationships of blood relatives. Your decisions can be the result of decades-long disputes, unresolved grudges, or simply because you admire the work that some type of non-profit organization is doing. The list of reasons beneficiaries are named/not named would fill volumes of books.

No matter how you decide to divide up your estate, it’s best to go over your decisions with a Florida and Palm Beach County estate planning attorney who can act as an objective opinion and ensure everything is in legal order.

How Can Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun Help You Choose a Beneficiary for Your Florida Estate?

Naming beneficiaries for various assets in your estate can be a difficult and surprisingly emotional experience. Here at Comiter, Singer, Baseman & Braun, a Florida and Palm Beach County estate planning attorney can help you answer difficult questions, make sure your process is legally sound, review your decisions and implement your legal duties. Contact us today to learn more and get started.

Over 100 Awards & Recognitions