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Beneficiary accounts trump provisions in wills

For many in Oklahoma, the relationships that shape family connections will shift and change over time. People marry and divorce and often marry again. Some families are comprised of children from multiple parental pairings, while others go through serious emotional turmoil that changes the parent-child relationship. It is imperative that individuals understand how their assets will be distributed after their deaths in order to avoid making serious errors when drafting wills and updating account information.

When an account requires the holder to name a beneficiary, that designation is important. The named beneficiary is entitled to the assets held in that account, regardless of the language of an existing will. The asset will pass to the named beneficiary outside of probate, giving that individual almost immediate access to the asset.

As an example, many people fail to update their existing account beneficiaries after divorcing their spouses. Sometimes they are unaware that their wills do not weigh more heavily than beneficiary designations. Some people simply forget to change the listed beneficiaries. Regardless of the reason why this task is not accomplished, the end result can be an ex-spouse receiving assets that were intended for an individual's current partner.

In order to avoid this unfortunate, but all-too-common, series of events, Oklahoma residents should take the time to check their wills and account information to ensure that the proper beneficiaries are named. Completing this relatively simple step takes very little time and effort. It can also lead to increased peace of mind for both an account's owner and his or her loved ones. 

Source:, "Money Matters: The trump card of estate planning", Marc Hebert, May 21, 2015

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