Will the beneficiaries named in my Last Will and Testament receive all of my assets?

By Rebecca A. Winge

Your Last Will and Testament only controls the disposition of probate assets which are assets owned by you in your individual name without a beneficiary designation. An individual may hold a significant portion of his or her net worth in retirement accounts or life insurance policies. Your Will does not control which beneficiaries receive these assets. Rather, the assets will pass to the beneficiaries designated by you on forms provided to the company holding these assets.

Also, some financial accounts may have a "transfer or payable on death" designation. An account with such a designation will pass to the beneficiary designated by you on such account and not to the beneficiaries named in your Will. If you title an account in joint name with another individual, ownership of the account will pass to the surviving joint owner and not the beneficiaries named in your Will.

An important part of the estate planning process is reviewing your beneficiary designations to ensure that they are consistent with your estate planning objectives so that the assets pass to your intended beneficiaries.