Chances are you’ve spent a certain amount of time on the creation of your will. You’ve discussed the provisions with your attorney and reviewed the document before signing it.
With your IRA, though, you probably spent a lot less time planning for its ultimate disposition. The bank, brokerage firm, or mutual fund family acting as custodian undoubtedly has a standard beneficiary designation form; it’s likely that you took only a moment or two to write in the name of your spouse or the names of your children.
Now, if you have only a small amount in your IRA, such cursory treatment might make sense. But many people have tens of thousands–even hundreds of thousands–of dollars in their IRAs. If you have an asset that large, shouldn’t you devote more effort to planning for its ultimate disposition?
One approach to consider is to prepare a customized beneficiary designation form. Such a form can be prepared by an attorney or an accountant who’s familiar with retirement plans.
In this form you can address various possibilities. What if your beneficiary predeceases you, or becomes incompetent? What if you and your beneficiary die in a common disaster? Such circumstances are not pleasant to contemplate but they are the issues usually covered in a will so they should be addressed if a large IRA is at stake.
Once this form has been written to your satisfaction, send at least two copies to your custodian. Ask that one be signed and dated by an official at the firm and returned to you. The other can be retained by the custodian.