I just got off the phone with a call center at a major brokerage house. I found out that my deceased client did not apparently have a beneficiary completed on her IRA. According to the rules of this brokerage house, the default beneficiary is her children, which is the right result. In this case, the only result of the failure to have a completed beneficiary form is some confusion and extra paperwork. However, in other cases, it could result in the IRA going to the wrong beneficiary or in the wrong manner. Apparently, as a result of mergers and the rise of call centers (for small brokerage accounts), paperwork, like beneficiary designations, may become lost in the transition.
I have written and spoken often about the need to review and update beneficiary designations. (See what happens when you have the wrong beneficiary listed!) If you have not done so recently, I highly recommend that you contact the financial institution who maintains your IRA (or other retirement account) to review, and, if necessary, update your beneficiary designation.
Remember that beneficiaries who are minors, have special needs, or otherwise need protection or control, should not be named directly as a beneficiary, but instead a trust for his or her benefit should be named as a beneficiary.
If we can assist you in any way with your estate plan or beneficiary designation of your IRA (or other retirement account), please contact us.