Naming Beneficiaries on Life Insurance While Having a Trust in New York

Many people consider creating a trust either to complement their will or in place of a will. There can be several tax benefits to using a trust for certain types of assets, as well as avoiding hefty inheritance taxes and estate taxes.

If you are considering creating a trust in New York, there are several key things you need to know about naming beneficiaries on life insurance, 401(k)s, IRAs, and other such financial accounts with named beneficiaries.

To begin with, there is a difference in how insurance policy beneficiaries can be named, depending on whether you want to create a revocable living trust or irrevocable living trust. In a revocable living trust, the grantor of the trust can continue to make changes and update the trust until their death. They also can draw distributions from the trust.

In an irrevocable living trust, once it is established, it cannot be updated, changed, altered, or modified without the beneficiary’s or beneficiaries’ permission. All rights and claims the grantor previously held to the assets moved into an irrevocable trust are given up.

Revocable Trusts and Naming Beneficiaries on Life Insurance

Business photo showcasing money that is being held by the trustees for the beneficiaries

If you want the proceeds from your life insurance to go directly into your revocable trust, then you need to update the policy to name the trust as your primary beneficiary. There is no need to add secondary beneficiaries since you have a trust.

On the other hand, let’s assume you wanted your wife to have access to the life insurance proceeds immediately, without having to wait for a distribution from your trust. Then you would want to name her as the primary beneficiary and your trust as the secondary beneficiary. This way, if your wife passes away before you do, then the proceeds go directly to your trust upon your death. 

Irrevocable Trusts and Naming Beneficiaries on Life Insurance

The process of naming beneficiaries on life insurance policies with irrevocable trusts is similar to that of revocable trusts. You could list your trust as the primary beneficiary. Then the person designated as the beneficiary of the trust would receive the proceeds from your life insurance.

You could also list a person as the primary beneficiary and the trust as the secondary beneficiary. If the primary beneficiary is still alive upon your death, then they receive the proceeds from the life insurance policy. If they are also dead, then the proceeds are transferred to the trust and the beneficiary of the irrevocable trust.

What About Naming Beneficiaries on Other Types of Accounts?

For any type of account where you name a beneficiary, like a 401(k), IRA, savings account, etc., you would want to list your trust as the primary beneficiary when you want the proceeds to be transferred directly into the trust.

Or, if you wanted all or some of the proceeds to go to a named beneficiary, then you would list them as the primary beneficiary or stipulate the percentage they would receive upon your death. You would list your trust as secondary or as a co-benefactor and what percentage should be transferred into the trust.

What if I Named Beneficiaries of My Life Insurance in My Will Too?

Senior couple planning their investments with financial advisor

The New York State Probate Process would ensure that the beneficiary or beneficiaries named in your insurance policy received the proceeds regardless of the beneficiaries you named in your will. If you named your trust as the beneficiary, then the trust would receive the proceeds.

For further questions about revocable and irrevocable trusts, naming life insurance beneficiaries, and naming beneficiaries on 401(k)s, IRAs, and other financial accounts in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Jamaica, or New York City, please feel free to contact New York probate attorney, Ledwidge & Associates, P.C. at 718-276-6656 today! 

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