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Changing beneficiaries eases estate administration & probate

The importance of estate planning is clear to many people in Georgia. As a result, they create a will and other important legal documents detailing their wishes, in an attempt to smooth the period following their death for their loved ones. Unfortunately, overlooking certain assets could potentially create complications for the estate administration & probate process.

These complications are illustrated by the experiences of one woman following the loss of her husband. At the time of his death, the couple had been married for 15 years. It was the second marriage for both. Before his death, he created a trust, leaving all his assets to his current wife. When the wife tried to get more information about an IRA he had worth $500,000, she learned that it was the man's first wife who was listed as the beneficiary on the account.

It seems clear that the man listed his first wife when the account had first been created 25 years before his death. Most would also argue that it was the man's intention that his current wife benefit from the asset but failing to change the listed beneficiary created issues. Because retirement plans and life insurance policy, for examples, have a designated beneficiary, they are considered non-probate assets. As such, they are not included in the probate process unless no beneficiary is listed. Even if a person has a will leaving all of his or her assets to someone, the listed beneficiary on an asset such as this supersedes the will.

There are many people in Georgia with the best intentions for their family. They go through the estate planning process in order to ensure that their loved ones are cared for and to help them avoid what can be a lengthy, expensive and stressful probate process. However, what seems like a relatively insignificant oversight can complicate the estate administration & probate process.

Source:, "Avoid This Estate Planning Mistake", Larry Weiss, May 6, 2016

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