Schedule A Consultation Today 425-336-2908

Helping You Plan Your Future And Solve Your Problems

View Our Practice Areas

Estate planning lessons from a million-dollar mistake

Readers in the Seattle area may take a lesson from an unfortunate tale that left one man's wife grieving while his ex-wife harvested a $1 million windfall. In a case of tragic oversight, the deceased man never followed up to change the beneficiaries of his lush retirement account and life insurance policy. The result of this all-too-common error undoubtedly sabotaged the man's wishes for his second wife and highlights the importance of competent estate planning early in life.

Unlike a will, financial instruments that designate beneficiaries are not subject to probate administration. The payouts from insurance policies, retirement accounts and certain other estate planning tools go directly to the named beneficiaries. In some cases, litigation may succeed at altering beneficiary designations after the fact, but only at a steep financial and emotional cost to surviving family members.

Owners of life insurance policies and other designated beneficiary accounts need to remember to check their beneficiary designations regularly to ensure that their assets will pass to the desired recipients. Life changes such as marriage, divorce and the birth of a child should trigger a review of beneficiary designations. Even in the absence of a life-changing event, regular review continues to be worthwhile in order to make sure that certain beneficiary designations, such as gifts to charities, still fit with the estate plan.

Although a healthy life insurance policy will often be a boon to surviving family members, comprehensive estate planning early in life can help estate owners avoid problems and spare loved ones the burden of having to litigate errors and omissions.

Source: Forbes, "Dead man's outdated beneficiary documents give $1 million to ex-wife," Michael Chamberlain, Feb. 21, 2012

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Make Your Consultation Appointment

To speak with an attorney at Gellner Law Group about estate planning, probate, trusts, wills or tax controversy, contact our law office in Kent, Washington, today. You can call 425-336-2908 or send us an email. We provide representation across the entire Seattle-Tacoma metropolitan area.

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.


Privacy Policy

Email Us

Kent Office
8407 S. 259th Street
Suite 203
Kent, WA 98030

Phone: 425-336-2908
Fax: 253-852-0400
Kent Law Office Map

Kent Office

Spokane Office
505 W. Riverside Avenue
Suite 500
Spokane, WA 99201

Phone: 425-336-2908
Fax: 509-769-0202
Map & Directions

Spokane Office