Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Bane of Beneficiary Designation Forms


If you haven’t updated your 401(k) beneficiary-designation form, you might not be leaving your wealth to your heirs as you wish.

This is what happened to a wealthy telemarketing executive who recently died.  He left all of his assets to his children in his will; however, much of his wealth was in his 401(k) retirement account, which went to his wife of two months.

This is a growing problem among Americans, many who think their retirement savings will be divided according to the instructions in their wills.  If a former spouse is mistakenly left as the designated beneficiary, he or she will generally be entitled to the assets.  Also, if adult children predecease you, your grandchildren will generally be out of luck.

See Jason Zweig, When Your 401(k) Has a Bad Heir Day, The Wall Street Journal, Apr. 4, 2014.

Special thanks to Joel Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.


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