Do you know how your retirement plan fits into your estate plan? Ideally you would never have to worry about this; you would spend the last penny of your savings on the day you die. But life rarely works out according to ideal circumstances, and the reality is that doing a little bit of estate planning for your retirement savings can save your heirs a whole lot of money and confusion.

The good news is that it’s fairly quick and easy to make arrangements for the distribution of your retirement assets after you die—that’s why you fill out all those beneficiary forms when you start a new job or open a new retirement account. The bad news is that it’s also fairly easy to forget about these forms as the years go by, which is how too many people end up inadvertently leaving their retirement assets to a divorced spouse or aging parents rather than to their current spouse or children. How can you ensure that your retirement savings will go to the right people?

  • First and foremost, you’ll want to review your beneficiary designation forms frequently: every 2-5 years, and whenever you experience a major life event.
  • Second, always name contingent beneficiaries! You may feel that if you name your spouse as the primary beneficiary you’ve done all you need to do, but in life you should always have a fallback plan, and your retirement assets are no exception.
  • Third, don’t count on your will to take care of everything. Your named beneficiaries on your retirement account will override the beneficiaries named in your will. If you are certain you want to leave your retirement assets to your estate, do so through a living trust and under the advice of an estate planning attorney.
  • Fourth, if you’ve named minor children as beneficiaries (either primary or contingent), make sure you name a guardian for your kids and a trustee for their assets. You may want to use those retirement funds to provide for the kids if anything happens to you, but minors cannot legally control assets, and they’ll need someone to manage their inheritance for them until they come of age.

If you have more questions about fitting your retirement assets into your estate plan, more information is available in this article from, or call our office for more detailed and personalized information.