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In will execution, things aren't always as they seem

In general, wills are seemingly straightforward documents. Whether you're writing one or executing one, most people are under the impression that the instructions should be followed exactly. What some people may not know, however, is that there are certain circumstances that can override the instructions provided in a will.

Think for a minute about all of the accounts you have named beneficiaries for. For most people these include retirement accounts, life insurance plans, and some other accounts. These beneficiary designations supersede a will. If they don't match up, the named beneficiary will benefit, not whoever was named in the will.

The other factor that can derail a will is joint ownership. No matter what your will says, the surviving owner of the property or account will inherit it.

Hopefully the message here is clear. Although a will is an important document, certain aspects of it will be ineffective if a person's instructions do not match his or her beneficiary designations.

Whether you are beginning your estate planning process, updating your documents or have been named the executor of someone else's estate, it is extremely important to be well-informed of the rules that apply. The best way to ensure your wishes are followed is to update your documents and your designated beneficiaries regularly. If you have been named the executor of an estate, it may be worth reminding that person to double-check that their will will hold up in probate. With the proper planning, the execution of a will can go smoothly and according to the decedent's wishes.

Source: Nashville Business Journal, "Are you sure your will is in order? Consider these misconceptions," David W. Adams, Nov. 21, 2013

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