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Beneficiary designations can trump bequests

Nevada residents creating an estate plan will typically want to be as thorough as possible in listing their assets and the manner in which they will be distributed after they die. However, a last will and testament may not be the last word in some cases. Probate is a time that allows for the validity of a will to be affirmed, and challenges could arise during this process. Additionally, some types of assets might be listed inappropriately.

Examples of bequests in a will that might be ignored could include life insurance policies, bank accounts, retirement assets, savings bonds, and stocks. In each of these cases, a designated beneficiary could be the recipient of the asset in question regardless of the statements made in a will. In some cases, such accounts might be left without a named beneficiary, which would typically cause the relevant funds to be included in the estate of a decedent. In other cases, the failure of the account owner to update their beneficiaries could cause such accounts to be given to an unexpected party such as an ex-spouse.

A viable estate plan is often structured to minimize the tax obligations of the recipients. If an IRA or similar account is directly transferred to a beneficiary, however, there can be potentially higher tax obligations. Further, this could prevent the distribution of funds over a beneficiary's lifetime.

One of the most important resources for an individual wanting to carefully address the long-term implications of a will or trust is an experienced estate planning attorney. Legal counsel can often provide recommendations for optimizing the manner of leaving certain assets and accounts to loved ones. Additionally, an attorney can encourage frequent reviews of the documents to minimize the risk of unintentionally including or excluding certain heirs.

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