Your will is not enough

Did you know that even if you’ve named a beneficiary in your will, you still need a separate designation for your retirement plan — even if it's the same person? Without it, your money will be distributed based on your retirement plan’s rules, which may not align with your wishes.

Who's who?

The primary beneficiary is the person who will receive your account balance when you die. If that person dies, the money goes to the secondary beneficiary. If you are married, by law, your spouse must be named your primary beneficiary. However, if you both decide to name someone else, then your spouse must sign a spousal consent waiver in front of a notary public.

No kidding

Retirement plan accounts generally do not pay benefits directly to children, who are minors. Instead benefits are paid to a guardian, custodian or trustee.

It's easy

A few simple steps can help ensure the account balance you worked so hard to build is handled according to your wishes.

Beneficiary designations may be made by submitting a paper form or online. Many plans offer online designations, which makes it easy to quickly name or update your beneficiary. After logging on just click your plan name. Then click "Beneficiaries," and follow the easy steps. (Before you start, have handy your beneficiary’s Social Security number and birth date.)

Keep in mind

If you name your beneficiary online, remember:

  • An online designation replaces information previously submitted on a paper form.
  • Even if you use the online feature, you still need to send a paper form if:
    • You are married and designate someone other than your spouse as the primary beneficiary.
    • You name a trust, estate or organization as your beneficiary.

Life changes, name changes

Review your beneficiaries periodically, especially if you have a birth, marriage, divorce or death in your family. Again, it’s easy to do online by just clicking the "Add/Change" button on the "Beneficiaries" page.