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You Probably Have More Than 1 Will

Not literally. But, in a very real sense you do. What does a Will do? One thing it does is it determines who gets certain assets that you own when you die. The beneficiary forms on your life insurance policies and retirement plans also determine who gets certain assets when you die, namely life insurance proceeds and retirement plans. So, a beneficiary form is very much like a Will, in a sense – they both determine who receives certain assets that you own when you pass.

Here’s the catch though and what many (if not most) people do not realize: in general, the person you name on the beneficiary form overrides what your Will says. That is, your Will does NOT control how all assets pass.

Let me illustrate: Before I (Justin) was married, my Will said that my brother and sister would get my assets when I die. Additionally, I had a life insurance policy in which the beneficiaries were also my brother and sister. After I got married, naturally, I changed my Will to say that my wife gets my stuff. But let’s say I never bothered changing my insurance policy and then I died. Who gets the life insurance? My brother and sister get it and not my wife. Despite wanting my wife to get everything, because she was not named as the beneficiary on the life insurance policy, it would not go to her.

In addition to beneficiary form assets, another potential “Will” that you have is the deed to your house. Depending on the type of ownership stated on the deed, it’s possible that your house could end up in the wrong hands after you pass. If the deed to your house states that you and another person own it with a “right of survivorship”, when you pass away, the house automatically goes to that other person outside of your Will or Trust. It’s rare but we've had spouses where the husband (before he married) bought the house in this manner with someone else, like his mom, for example. He later married and had not changed the deed. If the husband dies, his mom gets the house instead of his wife. Obviously, the clients did not know about this and did not want that to happen.

So, we encourage you to do 2 things:

1. Review your beneficiary forms, for assets like life insurance and retirement plans

2. Review the deeds to your real estate

Make sure your Will is coordinated with your other “Wills”

Contact Heritage Law in Greenville, SC for your estate planning needs!

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