09 Sep

Where There’s a Will …

Manya Deva Natan
Manya Deva Natan is a California Bar Certified attorney with the law firm of SSS Legal & Consultancy Services located in Calabasas, CA. Her practice focuses on International Estates, Trusts and Estates, Asset Protection, Trust Administration, and more. Manya received her law degree from Stanford University, as well as a Master's in International Affairs from Columbia University. She has completed extensive course-work and training in the areas of mental, physical, and emotional health, including being a published author. She is the founder of two publishing-based companies related to health and wellness and has particular interest in the legal and financial components of health and their importance in integrated health. She has appeared multiple times on Good Morning America and is regularly contacted by national media outlets for commentary.
Manya Deva Natan

6a01b8d0a6271d970c01b7c7cc7b7b970b-320wiThere are a multitude of mistakes that people make when it comes to putting together their wills.  These include naming of executors and custodians, trying to write their own wills, and not considering items such as liquidity. One of the colossal failures in estate planning I witness when people make their wills is not coordinating the will with the overall beneficiary designations they have chosen.





A Wall Street Journal article, titled “How People Undermine Their Own Written Will,” explains that most people believe that their written will take priority and supersedes the beneficiary designations on their investments. This isn’t true. When you designate a beneficiary on a life insurance policy, a 401(k) plan, or an IRA—that is a binding contract. The basic tenants of contract law apply just as it would in a mortgage or a sale. What this means is that if you stipulate in your will that you want to leave your IRA to your brother and the beneficiary designation form of your IRA says that it is all supposed to pass to your sister, then your brother is out of luck. Despite your explicit instructions in your will, the IRA will go to the named beneficiary.


Most of the beneficiary designation forms in use today provide for listing a primary beneficiary as well as a contingent beneficiary. This gives you plenty of options to map out your estate. It is important to have a conversation with a qualified estate planning attorney when you are creating your will and other estate planning documents. The original article cautions us that each state may have different rules and your attorney will ensure that your documents are correct so your wishes are carried out as you intended.


Marriage, birth of child, divorce, re-marriage, child adoption, a new job—all of these life events and many more should motivate you to consider the thoroughness and current condition of your will preparation and beneficiary designations. Do not let your loved ones be surprised and disappointed by the realities of probate and contract law. Set up your beneficial designations and your will with the guidance of an experienced estate planning attorney.

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