When To Review Beneficiary Designation In Your Estate Planning Documents

Posted on: 21 March 2022

Do not write your estate planning documents and keep them away for the rest of your life. Review the documents and make necessary updates. For example, beneficiary designation updates will ensure your estate planning documents always reflect your current wishes. Below are circumstances that call for beneficiary designation review.


The effect of a beneficiary's death depends on the beneficiary. For example, the death of a primary beneficiary means the residual estate gets the assets the beneficiary would have received.

Say you bequeath your house to your eldest child, John Doe. If John Doe dies, the house might not automatically go to their children. Instead, the residual estate will get the house for redistribution. You must update the primary beneficiary designation if you want John Doe's children to get the house.

Birth or Adoption

The acquisition of a new family member means you should update your estate planning documents to include the new member. Say your child gives birth to or adopts a child. You must include the grandchild in your estate planning documents if you want them to inherit a share of your estate. The grandchild is not an automatic beneficiary even if their siblings are in your will.


Many people don't want their former partners to inherit their assets. In some states, the only way to keep your partner from your estate is to remove them from your beneficiary designations. Otherwise, your ex-partner will still get the assets after your demise.

On the other hand, you may wish to keep your former spouse on your will for your minor children. Your estate planning documents should reflect your wishes.


Marriage usually means additional beneficiaries. For example, most people wish their spouses to inherit their estates. Most states don't even allow you to disinherit your spouse without their approval. In addition to spouses, you may get children and even grandchildren when you marry. The best way to take care of the new family members is to include them in your will.

Attitude Change

You do not always need a massive life change to update your beneficiary designations. You can update your estate planning documents any time you wish. You can remove and add beneficiaries if your attitude towards them changes. For example, you may wish to include a financially irresponsible relative as a beneficiary if they reform.

Review your estate plans regularly, even without a major life change. The passage of time can necessitate changes. For example, minor children grow and become capable of direct inheritance. Contact an estate planning attorney if you have additional questions.