What Happens If Accounts Have No Beneficiary?

No beneficiary designation
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Failing to designate a beneficiary on your accounts can cause problems for your estate.

Assets come in all shapes and sizes.

While some assets like a house take up significant physical space, others are held in accounts.

Whether these accounts are bank accounts, retirement accounts, or investment accounts; it is likely each of these has its own beneficiary designation forms.

According to a recent nj.com article titled “My wife died and her account has no beneficiary. What’s next?,” leaving these forms blank can complicate your estate settlement.

No beneficiary designation means your estate will pass through probate.
With no beneficiary designations, certain accounts will not pass as quickly to heirs.

What happens if you do not designate a beneficiary?

With no beneficiary designation, these assets will become a part of your estate.

Your “probate” estate.

If you have a last will and testament, these assets will be distributed to those named as your heirs.

If you failed to create a last will and testament, the laws of the state will designate who inherits your assets.

This is known as intestacy.

Regardless, both of these involve the probate court.

Although settling an estate is most complicated if you die intestate, distributing assets through beneficiary designations rather than through probate means these assets will be available to heirs more quickly.


Before the beneficiaries can receive the assets from the estate, the estate must pass through probate.

This means the last will and testament must be filed with the court.

Creditors must be notified and debts paid from the estate.

After the executor has completed his or her responsibilities, the probate judge will close the estate settlement through court order.

If you have no beneficiary named on your accounts but have a small estate, you may qualify for a small estate limit according to the laws of your estate.

In Kansas and Missouri, this threshold is $40,000.

If this happens in Missouri, your heirs can get a court order to transfer the banking account to them or, if in Kansas, then no court order is required.

Consequently, by failing to designate a beneficiary to your bank, retirement, or investment accounts; you will be delaying when your heirs will receive your assets.

Because beneficiary designations take precedence over your last will and testament or your trust documents, you should review and update the names to ensure the “correct” people or charities inherit these assets.

Yes, life happens.

Reference: nj.com (Oct. 22, 2021) “My wife died and her account has no beneficiary. What’s next?”

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