Naming Beneficiaries In Your Will

Wills are usually all about who will take possession of your property after a death. You are free to name almost anyone you like in your will, but there are a few exceptions to know about. Read on for some interesting information about naming beneficiaries in your will.

Choosing Beneficiaries

When considering who to name as a beneficiary, you might consider your spouse, your children, grandchildren, friends, charities, churches, schools, and more. Many people simply specify that they want their estates to go their spouses. If their spouse has preceded them in death, they may designate that the estate be equally divided between their lawful children. Read on to explore more about each of these categories of beneficiaries.

Your Spouse As Beneficiary

In a small number of states, spouses are protected against being left out of a will by a provision that directs they be paid a certain portion of the estate. These states are known as common law states and in those states, the surviving spouse can contest the will and be paid either one-third or one-half of the estate's value. In some states, however, spouses can be purposefully or accidentally left out of the will.

Children As Beneficiaries

Unless you name them separately (by name), step-children are not considered children unless they have been legally adopted. Be sure to discuss this issue with your estate attorney to ensure that you know who is included in a blanket inheritance statement. If you want to leave a child out of your will, it's advised that you do so by naming them specifically so that there is no question of the omission being accidental.

In general, children named in a will should be of age (over the age of 18) or there should be special provisions for the child. For example, you might name a financial custodian that is of age using the Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA). There are other means of addressing minor-aged beneficiaries, such as special trusts and will provisions.

Pets As Beneficiaries

Unfortunately, pets are not able to inherit property from you under the law. That doesn't mean, however, that you cannot address their needs by using a will or a trust. There are at least two simple ways to address the needs of your furry family member after your death:

  • Leave a trusted family member or friend the pet and a sum of money to fund their care.
  • Create a special trust for the pet.

To learn more about naming beneficiaries, speak to an estate planning attorney.