6 Tips for Naming a Beneficiary

Sarah J. Randall

Author: Sarah J. Randall

POST DATE: 1.6.22
Ccha  Estate Planning

Nobody enjoys talking about dying. We don’t like to think about what will happen when we are gone. But, we also don’t want to make things more complicated for our loved ones than we have to.

If you pass away without a will or other estate plan, your assets will be divided as set forth by Indiana law. The good thing is, creating an estate plan is not nearly as difficult as you think it will be. Most people are entirely comfortable with the estate planning process, especially when working with a friendly and knowledgeable attorney. Still, one area that can be challenging is deciding whom the beneficiaries of your estate will be. Below we will look at how to name beneficiaries in a will and what to be aware of when planning your estate.

CCHA Jan 2021 beneficiary tw

1. There Is Not a “Right” or “Wrong” Way

Put simply, your beneficiary can be almost anyone or anything. This is your estate and your choice. While many people choose to leave their estate to their spouse and family, others do not. You can name a non-relative beneficiary. Some people name their church, others name their friends, and some even name a charity as their beneficiary. These tips may help guide you, but they are not rules written in stone.

2. Who Depends on You Financially?

Are there people in your life that rely on you? For example, you may have a spouse you share your assets with or children you support. Perhaps you have siblings, relatives, or friends for whom you have bought property. Think about the people who rely on you most. Do you want to make sure they still receive support and assistance when you pass? If so, you may want to consider naming them as a beneficiary. You can make their gift as broad or as narrow as you want. For example, if you wish to leave that person a vehicle, you can specify this in your estate plan.

3. What Are the Tax Consequences?

The tax treatment of your estate can vary depending on who the beneficiary is. It can also change depending on the mechanism for distributing the assets. Estate tax, gift tax, income tax, and property tax are all factors to be considered when planning your estate.

An estate planning attorney can help you work through some of your estate’s legal and tax considerations.

4. Is the Beneficiary Capable and Responsible?

Not every beneficiary can handle a gift outright. Minors, for example, are typically incapable of handling a significant gift on their own. Other beneficiaries may struggle with their gift due to capacity limitations or trouble handling their finances.

If you are worried about leaving a gift directly to your beneficiary, some options may be available. For example, naming a trust as a beneficiary may be one way to safely leave a gift to heirs. Depending on the circumstances, the trust may hold the assets until the beneficiary comes of age or even for the beneficiary’s life, if desired.

5. Are There Going to Be Multiple Beneficiaries?

You can name as many beneficiaries as you want. You can also create classes of beneficiaries, such as children and grandchildren. While it can be tempting just to name one member of a class to represent the others, this can be problematic—for example, if you name your eldest child as the only beneficiary and expect them to split the inheritance among your other children. While your daughter may be trustworthy, this can still backfire and cause infighting and legal battles. So if you want a gift to be split among your children, you can say something like “divided equally among all my children.” Being mindful of how you name your beneficiaries can save a lot of trouble for them down the road.

6. Talk to an Estate Planning Attorney

Estate planning doesn’t have to be complicated. It does, however, need to be competent. While some are content with letting an attorney without the relevant experience plan their estate, this can be risky. An experienced estate planning attorney understands Indiana probate laws and knows how to help clients divide assets the way they want.

Contact the Estate Planning Attorneys at CCHA

CCHA’s estate planning attorneys have a deep understanding of Indiana probate law. We have a foundation of legal services that dates back over 140 years. We have someone ready to talk to you about your estate planning needs. Contact us today to set up your consultation.