BOSTON (CBS) – Oh, the stories I have heard! Widows thinking they were getting the life insurance proceeds or the retirement assets and were left with nothing.

Whenever there is a life event such as a marriage, divorce, death, birth or a significant birthday you need to review and update the beneficiary designations on your various accounts.

You also should name a contingent beneficiary. This is the person second in line to receive the assets just in case the first person named does not outlive you.

So why is this so important you ask? Well beneficiary designations are unique in that upon your death the assets pass to the named individuals and they bypass a will or a trust that may be in place.

Even if you leave everything in your will or your trust to your spouse or your children if your mother is still named on the retirement plan or life insurance she will receive the proceeds. Your other heirs can protest but by law it belongs to the named beneficiary.

Divorce gets listeners in trouble in more ways than I am going to discuss right now. If you named your spouse as the beneficiary on your IRA or other retirement plans and you have divorced and have not changed the beneficiary designation and again something should happen to you, your new spouse or children may not receive any of the benefits.

Life insurance policies. You have a paid up policy and tuck it away, forgetting about it. Here again many listeners told of not getting their spouse’s insurance proceeds or in one case happily a woman received her ex-spouse’s insurance proceeds after he died and she figured it made up for all of the child support he missed.

Check those policies. If you are now married and started your current job before the marriage check all of the beneficiary designations at work. Again check those insurance policies; you may have named your mother or even your brother when you first got the job. Ten years later you are married and have twins. If something should happen to you the life insurance proceeds will go to your brother not your wife and kids.

Review all of your documents that required you to designate a beneficiary. Think about these in terms of a previous job as well.

  • Pension Plan at work
  • Retirement plans
  • IRAs
  • Life Insurance
  • Annuities


You can hear Dee Lee’s expert financial advice on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 each weekday at 1:55 p.m., 3:55 p.m., and 7:55 p.m.

Subscribe to Dee’s Money Matters newsletter here.


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