Vantage Point

Update Your Information: Beneficiary Basics

The Importance of Updating your Beneficiaries

Though it may seem like a chore, it’s essential to make sure your banking and financial information is up to date—this is especially true when thinking about the beneficiaries listed on your accounts.

A beneficiary is the person (or entity) who is entitled to receive the funds in your account after your death. While it may be uncomfortable or morbid to think about your affairs after your passing, you could save your family and loved ones an immense amount of time, energy, and stress by ensuring that your beneficiary information is complete, accurate, and current. As you think about beneficiaries, here are some helpful pointers and answers to some common questions:

  • Make sure your beneficiary’s information is detailed and correctly listed. Even though it’s not required when you open an account, you should provide your beneficiary’s full legal name, date of birth, and even their social security number. The more detailed your information, the better we can ensure that the right person receives the funds and the easier it will be for that beneficiary to verify their identity.
  • Make sure your beneficiary’s information is up to date. Be sure to update your beneficiary’s information, especially if they have legally changed their name or passed away—both could lead to future complications.
  • Make sure you have a beneficiary or joint owner on your account. If there isn’t a beneficiary or joint owner listed on the account, then your family will have to go through probate in order to access the funds. That could be a long and arduous process, and it’s certainly something you want to avoid happening.
  • Are there limitations on what a beneficiary can access or do? The short answer: yes. A beneficiary isn’t entitled to the account information before or after the member has passed away. That might sound counterintuitive, but it’s related to regulations on privacy and information: a beneficiary is entitled to the funds, not the information. Also, a beneficiary cannot access funds before all joint owners on the account have passed away.
  • What will a beneficiary be required to do to receive the funds? A beneficiary is required to present a death certificate and a valid, government-issued, photo ID in order for the funds to be released.
  • Is a “power of attorney” (POA) the same as a beneficiary? The short answer: no. Power of attorney is the authority to act for another person in a particular legal and financial way. It’s important to note two things about a POA. First, a POA should be established under the guidance of a legal professional—online forms may seem convenient, but they don’t always satisfy legal requirements. Second, a POA expires at death—which means that once an account holder has passed away, the POA is no longer valid and the funds in the account go to the beneficiaries if there are no joint owners on an account.
  • Are beneficiaries necessarily people? No. While beneficiaries are often individuals, they can also be entities such as organizations, charities, trusts, etc.

A good practice is to double check your personal information listed on your account at least once a year. It’s a smart habit which not only could help your loved ones down the line, but it helps you create a plan for carrying out your financial wishes upon your passing.

If you’re unsure of the beneficiaries listed on your Vantage account(s) or need some guidance, contact us at 314.289.0055 or 800.522.6009, through online chat, by secure email through online banking, or schedule an appointment at your local branch.

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Update My Account Information