Does Your Will Control?

It is vital that everyone have a will, regardless if you are 30 years old or 75 years old. Wills are not just for senior citizens.

However, you need to be aware that your will may not be the controlling document in disposing or distributing some of your assets upon death. The primary example is your retirement account. The assets in your Ministers’ Retirement Plan account will not be distributed by the provisions of your will but rather by your beneficiary designation on file at the Benefits Board.

Simply put, the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts, life insurance policies and living trusts will supersede the provisions in your will. Too many people neglect to update the beneficiaries for these accounts on the flawed assumption that the instructions in their wills will dictate the distribution of these funds after death. That is not so. The beneficiary designation form controls.

To make sure that your assets go to the person that you want, you should update all your beneficiary designations whenever there is a major event in your life that would warrant such a change, such as a birth, death, divorce or marriage. For example, if you fail to change the beneficiaries on your retirement accounts when you divorce, your ex-spouse could wind up with your retirement funds, even if your will states that your assets — including specifically your Ministers’ Retirement Plan account — should go to someone else.

Further, since the Ministers’ Retirement Plan is a “spousally-protected” plan, your spouse is always presumed to be your primary beneficiary. So if you re-marry after the death or divorce from your previous spouse, your new spouse becomes the primary beneficiary under our plan, potentially cutting out children by the first marriage that you may have wanted to receive all or a portion of your account. To clearly define who gets your retirement plan assets upon your death, it may be necessary for your new spouse to sign a complete or partial waiver of his or her claim to your account.

While these issues are often delicate to address by you, the staff at the Benefits Board stands ready to assist you in making sure that your beneficiary form is up-to-date and that you have addressed any contingencies. You may use either the Update Beneficiary form or the Change Beneficiary form available on our web site to make sure that your beneficiaries are correct.

About benefitsboard

Art Rhodes is the President and CEO of the Church of God Benefits Board, Inc. - the administrator of the Ministers' Retirement Plan and the Church Loan Fund, Inc. The corporate offices of the Benefits Board are in Cleveland, TN.
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