Many people in the Tallahassee area, even if they haven’t had a chance to make out a will or trust yet, can still understand the importance of having such a document. Should a Floridian die without having such a document, then their property will be passed along to their heirs according to Florida law, even if these are not the people the deceased person would have chosen to inherit property.

However, there is another component to estate planning that might be easier to overlook. Many people have life insurance policies, retirement plans like 401(k)s and other assets which routinely require what is called a “beneficiary designation.” Basically, the person who owns the account needs to inform the bank or company holding it who is to receive the funds in the account upon the person’s death.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about these sorts of accounts is that, when paying them, the financial institution will follow the person’s beneficiary designation without regard to what the person’s will or trust says. The only workaround for this rule is for the person to “designate” as a beneficiary his or her estate or trust.

Many Floridians have a lot of wealth tied up in these sorts of accounts, so it is important for them to know the status of these accounts, and specifically, to know whom they have designated as a beneficiary. They should also update these designations as their life circumstances change. This process is part of a comprehensive approach to estate planning. Not completing this process properly can, at best, create confusion and, at worst, mean that a deceased person’s property does not go to whom he or she intended.