Make sure you write it down!

I’ve written about the importance of wills and powers of attorney before, but almost every week there’s something in the news that reminds me again why you should get your intentions down on paper. Just this morning, I read about a recently-deceased attorney (whom you would think would have known better)  in a Philadelphia law firm whose parents and same-sex partner are fighting over her profit-sharing account.   

The owners of profit-sharing accounts, IRAs, 401(ks), brokerage accounts and similar financial instruments can simply designate a beneficiary, and a contingent beneficiary, by signing the forms provided by the holder of the account.  You don’t need a notary,  a witness, or an attorney to help you do this, and you don’t even have to tell the beneficiary (or the person you are not choosing) if you think that would be a difficult subject.   If you don’t, the account holder may look to the person’s will – if she had one –  or they may follow their own, internal policy for how such funds will be distributed upon the owner’s death.

The attorney in this article was under the age of 40, so we can understand why she may not have been thinking about what would happen after she died.   Unfortunately, we don’t have to look too far to realize that accidents and illnesses can befall anyone, at any age.  Give yourself the peace of mind of knowing that the loved ones that you choose will not only inherit your legacy, but will do so without an argument.

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