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More Money Mistakes: Beneficiary Designations Not Being Updated

BOSTON (CBS) - When you own an asset such as a retirement plan, an annuity, or life insurance, you get to decide who should get that asset if you should die. Companies do this by asking you to designate a beneficiary.

Upon your death, the asset will pass to the named individuals on the account and the asset will bypass any will or trust that may be in place.

Here again it was the survivors who told the sad stories.

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

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

You should also 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.

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 your 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 and he does not have to share!

One more thing:  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
  • Savings Accounts


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

Subscribe to Dee's Money Matters newsletter here.

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