That task of choosing a beneficiary for your estate can be daunting – who will receive what, who will benefit the most? On the other hand, many people name their spouse as their beneficiary, leaving their spouse with the task of distributing the wealth of the estate after their passing. When deciding on who will inherit your estate after you pass, consider these 5 key points.

1. Where do I start?

Begin with a list of your immediate family; spouse, children, siblings, parents. Take into consideration anyone who depends on you to provide for them financially and who will need your financial support later in life. Your spouse and children are the first choice for many. And although you might think your parents are likely to pass before you, you might want to plan for them to benefit from your estate to cover health and retirement costs.

2. More than one Beneficiary

Most people who are married with children will name their spouse as beneficiary, but it’s important to have a primary and secondary beneficiary. If your spouse passes before you do or if you don’t want them to have to handle the burden of dividing your estate, naming secondary beneficiaries takes care of that.

3. What If I don’t have kids?

You could name a sibling,family member or charity as your beneficiary. If you are naming more than one beneficiary to receive a portion of your estate be sure to specify the amount, either in dollars or a percentage, otherwise proceeds will be divided equally.

4. Update, constantly.

While you might think this is something you decide and forget about, it’s best to update your wishes often. If your spouse passes, if your parents’ health situation changes, if your child gets married or has children – these are all examples of life changes that should affect your list of beneficiaries and the division of your estate.

5. Put Trust in your Trustee

Your Trustee is one of the most important parts of your will and estate. Your Trustee will be responsible for settling debts, closing accounts, distributing your estate which may or may not include real estate sales, legal proceedings relating to your estate, and filing your last tax return. Do not assume that your spouse is the best person for this role simply because they are married to you. Consider someone who is not only trustworthy, but also responsible and capable of handling these hugely important tasks. Your spouse may not be emotionally available to take on this burden.

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