When creating your estate plan, it is important to consider your various retirement accounts and how you plan to distribute the underlying assets to your beneficiaries. Of course, 401k accounts, Individualized Retirement Accounts (IRA's), Roth IRA's and Social Security benefits all operate slightly differently and have different terms for payout. It is crucial that you make sure that your estate planning attorney has all of the correct, up-to-date information when helping you assemble the right plan for you.
California features some particular laws that make estate planning especially necessary if you wish to name someone other than your spouse as the beneficiary of your retirement accounts. In the absence of special planning and specific documentation, your spouse is automatically entitled to half of all the funds in your retirement accounts that you earned in the course of the marriage. If you wish to name someone else as the beneficiary, this must be planned for ahead of time in order to avoid a lengthy and costly probate procedure.
In order for your estate planning attorney to fully address all of your needs, you need to make sure that you have proper documentation on all of your retirement investments. If you do not create a specific plan for all of your assets, then the probate process can easily drain your carefully saved assets before they pass to your beneficiaries.
If you are already thinking about protecting your hard-earned savings, you are on the right track. With the guidance of an experienced attorney, you can ensure that your loved ones receive the greatest portion of your estate while protecting your rights in the process.
Source: Findlaw, "Personal Retirement Accounts and Your Family," accessed April 13, 2017