Bank Account Beneficiary

By: Martin M. Shenkman, CPA, MBA, JD

When you open a bank or brokerage account you can "title" (list the ownership of) the account in a manner that designates the beneficiary (person to receive it on your death). For example, you could title an account as "Your Name POD Son's Name". POD stands for "pay on death". On your death your son who is listed on the account would then own the account. You can set up some account as "Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship" (JTWROS). On your death, your joint tenant will own the account and in effect be the beneficiary. Be careful with simplistic approaches to transferring and distributing assets by using account titles or beneficiary designations (forms you sign when you set up an account designating who should receive them). There are a myriad of income, gift, estate and other tax complications. Also, if you list say one child on several accounts, there may be no assurance that your other children will be treated fairly. Personal issues need to be carefully evaluated. Too often a bank teller, or "friend" gives you advise on beneficiary designations that may sound "right" but leave you and your heirs with major problems.

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