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Beware outdated beneficiary designations

If you have not updated your will in some time, you should consider revisiting its terms and beneficiaries. Of course, changing your beneficiaries is not always as simple as simply updating your will. In California, if you name your spouse as a beneficiary, then you face some legal hurdles before you can remove him or her as a beneficiary or add additional beneficiaries in case he or she passes away before you do.

The complications in this matter often stem from implications of California's community property division laws. Any property that you acquire throughout the course of your marriage automatically divides down the middle, so if you plan to remove your spouse as a beneficiary, then you probably need to get his or her written consent to do so.

When it comes to wills, estate planning and beneficiary designation, you very much want to make sure that every piece of the planning puzzle matches up. If there are conflicts between different drafts of your will and beneficiary designation forms, the most recently filed beneficiary forms may take precedence in court. Practically speaking, this means that you may end up leaving property to beneficiaries you named at a different point in life who you no longer wish to have as beneficiaries.

It is easy to see how these things can become overwhelming, but they don't need to be. You can always have your attorney to help you wade through various iterations of wills and planning documents to ensure that your wishes are properly documented and that your estate plan is up-to-date and valid, protecting your rights and the best interests of your beneficiaries.

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