As you review your estate plan, you may realize that your relationship with one of your beneficiaries has changed. You two may have become estranged. Or, he/she might have experienced personal struggles that call his/her responsibility or judgment into question. No matter the reason, you may want to remove this person from your estate plan. Updating your estate plan to reflect these wishes is necessary if you want them fulfilled.
Consider your estate plan’s arrangement
Before taking action, you must consider your estate plan’s arrangement. If your plan includes a revocable trust, removing your beneficiary will likely be easy from a privacy standpoint. Trusts are private, so the individual in question may not ever know of your actions. Thus, he/she will have difficulty challenging them at a later date.
To update your will, you may choose to simply draft a new will or add a codicil, or amendment, to your existing will. If you choose to create a new will, you will need to revoke your previous will. This can be accomplished by including a statement in the new will that revokes any previous wills or codicils that you have made. This statement, accompanied by also destroying your previous will, will prevent confusion among beneficiaries when the time comes.
If you are particularly concerned about challenges to the will, you can also include a no-contest clause. This clause will not prevent the removed beneficiary from challenging your will, but it will waive his/her right to receive anything from your estate if his/her attempts are unsuccessful. Georgia law requires such clauses to be worded in a specific manner, so it is important to work with an estate planning attorney in adding this.
Check your beneficiary designations
Besides reviewing your estate plan, you will also want to check the beneficiary designations on any retirement accounts, bank accounts and life insurance policies you hold. Those types of assets will pass directly to the designated beneficiaries and do not pass under the terms of the will. You may have established these years ago, and you may have named as a beneficiary the person you intend to remove from your estate plan. In this case, you will want to designate a different beneficiary to your accounts and policies.
While no one ever hopes to cut ties with a beneficiary, it is important to understand what steps you must take if the time comes. As tough as doing this may be, you will want to make sure your assets pass on to your loved ones.